Patterns of wind-drifted snow on the Alaskan arctic slope, detected with ERS-1 interferometric SAR

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We tested whether spaceborne interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) could be used to reveal patterns of redistribution of wind-drifted snow in arctic Alaska. Based on a simple geometric model, we found that lateral variations in new-snow (assuming a density of 0.3 g cm-3) accumulation of > 11cm, or redistribution of the existing snow into dunes of half this height, could produce decorrelation of C-band interferograms. Comparison of interferograms with field observations for two periods from winter 1993/94, one with wind but little new snow, and the second with wind and new snow, indicates the interferograms delineated areas where the snow depth had changed due to drifting. Striking patterns of windward scouring and leeward deposition were revealed. The interferograms also showed that during one high-wind event, conspicuous interferometric bands a few kilometers wide and 30 km long were formed downwind of a mountain ridge. We speculate that these bands were caused by large-scale alterations in the concentrations of moving snow particles, a finding consistent with ground observations of alternating bands of clear air and blizzard for the same area and similar to phenomena observed with the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer and the Geodetic Earth Observing Satellite during blizzards in North Dakota and Iowa, U.S.A.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2002

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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