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Towards a new method for snow property estimation from space using bistatic radar

28 July 2023

Duration: 24 months


We propose to investigate the unexplored Coherent Backscatter Opposition Effect (CBOE) in snow and ice, and its possible applications in new Earth Observation mission concepts aimed at monitoring of the Earth’s cryosphere. Large-scale monitoring of the changing properties of the snow cover is a key component for mapping and understanding of the cryosphere, which provides some of the most useful indicators of climate variability and change, yet is considered one of the most under-sampled domains of the Earth System [1]. The CBOE was recently confirmed to occur in Earth’s snow cover at radio frequencies [2], and the observables of this effect can be linked to physical parameters of the medium [2-5]. There is currently a research gap in full characterizations of this effect, specifically in snow at radio wavelengths. This gap is an obstacle for development of new models and measurement concepts, which could make use of this effect to estimate snow properties in the Earth’s cryosphere, as well as on other Solar System bodies. In this project, in the first step we propose to carry out a ground-based bistatic Ku-band radar experiment characterizing the CBOE under varying snow conditions, combined with in-situ measurements of the properties of the snow cover. This combined dataset will allow further development and validation of inclusions of the CBOE in state-of-the-art snow scattering models, and will thus aid the search for a connecting link between the CBOE characteristics, and physical parameters of the snow medium (such as snow grain size, snow depth, or snow water equivalent). These modeling developments will in turn be assessed in the context of a novel satellite EO mission concept, aimed at global characterization and monitoring of the Earth’s snow cover through bistatic observations of the CBOE. This project will thus investigate a new pathway towards enhanced understanding of snow as an Essential Climate Variable [6].

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Towards a new method for snow property estimation from space using bistatic radar