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AuthorsZirizzotti, A.* 
Urbini, S.* 
Cafarella, L.* 
Baskaradas, J. A.* 
TitleRadar systems for Glaciology
Issue DateJan-2010
KeywordsRES systems
GPR system
bedrock of ice sheets
subglacial lake
Subject Classification02. Cryosphere::02.01. Permafrost::02.01.08. Instruments and techniques 
02. Cryosphere::02.02. Glaciers::02.02.10. Instruments and techniques 
AbstractThis chapter deals with radar systems, measurements and instrumentation employed to study the internal core and bedrock of ice sheets in glaciology. The Earth's ice sheets are in Greenland and Antarctica. They cover about 10% of the land surface of the planet. The total accumulated ice comprises 90% of the global fresh water reserve. These ice sheets, associated with the ocean environment, provide a major heat sink which significantly modulates climate. Glaciology studies aim to understand the various process involved in the flow (dynamics), thermodynamics, and long-term behaviour of ice sheets. Studies of large ice masses are conducted in adverse environmental conditions (extreme cold, long periods of darkness). The development of remote sensing techniques have played an important role in obtaining useful results. The most widely used techniques are radar systems, employed since the 1950s in response to a need to provide a rapid and accurate method of measuring ice thickness. Year by year, polar research has become increasingly important because of global warming. Moreover, the discovery of numerous subglacial lake areas (water entrapped beneath the ice sheets) has attracted scientific interest in the possible existence of water circulation between lakes or beneath the ice (Kapitsa et al., 2006; Wingham et al., 2006; Bell et al., 2007). Recent studies in radar signal shape and amplitude could provide evidence of water circulation below the ice (Carter 2007, Oswald and Gogineni 2008). In this chapter the radar systems employed in glaciology, radio echo sounding (RES), are briefly described with some interesting results. RES are active remote sensing systems that utilize electromagnetic waves that penetrate the ice. They are used to obtain information about the electromagnetic properties of different interfaces (for example rock-ice, ice-water, seawater-ice) that reflect the incoming signal back to the radar. RES systems are characterized by a high energy (peak power from 10 W to 10 KW) variable transmitted pulse width (about from 0.5 ns to several microseconds) in order to investigate bedrock characteristics even in the thickest zones of the ice sheets (4755 m is the deepest ice thickness measured in Antarctica using a RES system). Changing the pulse length or the transmitted signal frequencies it is possible to investigate particular ice sheet details with different resolution. Long pulses allows transmission of higher power than short pulses, penetrating the thickest parts of the ice sheets but, as a consequence, resolution decreases. For example, the GPR system, commonly used in geophysics for rock, soil, ice, fresh water, pavement and structure characterization, employs a very short transmitted pulse (0.5 ns to 10 ns) that allow detailing of the shallow parts of an ice sheet (100-200 m in depth) (Reynolds 1997). Consequently, in recent years, GPR systems are also employed by explorers to find hidden crevasses on glaciers for safety. RES surveys have been widely employed in Antarctic ice sheet exploration and they are still an indispensable tool for mapping bedrock morphologies and properties of the last unexplored continent on Earth. The advantage of using these remote sensing techniques is that they allow large areas to be covered, in good detail and in short times using platforms like aeroplanes and surface vehicles.
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