Research Matters

Research Matters

Radar Discovery


Cutting-edge radar technology developed at the KU-based Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets has cast new light on the field of glaciology, compelling scientists to reassess the role of melt water beneath miles-thick ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.

Episode #90



2 minutes (2.8 MB) | Download mp3

Transcript


A new study revolutionizes understanding of melt water under glaciers. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Cutting-edge radar technology developed at the KU-based Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets - or CReSIS -- has cast new light on the field of glaciology, compelling scientists to reassess the role of melt water beneath miles-thick ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. David Braaten, professor of geography at KU, was a co-investigator on the research effort.

Braaten: This project was centered in East Antarctica over a high point in the ice called 'Dome A' in a very remote area close to the pole of inaccessibility. The data set was generated by an airborne geophysical survey with a CReSIS radar on board that was flown in a grid pattern to try and understand what was below the ice.

The startling findings, published recently in Science magazine, show that water underneath Antarctic ice sheets - by repeatedly freezing, melting and refreezing - changes the basic structure of a glacier all the way up to the surface of the ice.

Braaten: It was an observation made from the radar data of a formation below the ice. The premise of this formation is that it developed because of freeze-on at the bed of the ice. So liquid water was produced, it froze on to the bed of the ice and it changed the structure of the ice, essentially pushing up the ice from below.

The radar developed at CReSIS is called the Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder or MCoRDS. The radar mapped the under-ice topography by sending out energy pulses from antennas fixed to the wings of a dual-engine propeller aircraft.

Braaten: The radar was developed by CReSIS and tested in Greenland and Antarctica over the years. It was offered to this group at Columbia University to duplicate. So the radar was a clone of a radar system developed at KU. It was a state-of-the-art radar for ice sounding, it was the best available, and that's why they were very interested in developing it.

For more on the radar discovery, log on to Research Matters dot KU dot EDU. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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