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Sporadic CryoSat SAR acquisition experiments over Antarctica land ice from 17 November to 7 December 2014

17 November 2014

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It is well known that conventional altimetry acquisitions are not always suitable over areas of rough topography inside the interior ice sheet of Antarctica. CryoSat (CS) is the first SAR(in) altimeter concept to be flown on Earth and therefore represents the unique opportunity to process SAR data over land ice for which we still have poor knowledge.

In cooperation with CNES, ESA's CryoSat mission will carry out, for the first time, SAR acquisition experiments over zones in Antarctica. Besides the scientific challenge of improving our capability to characterise the Antarctic topography, this acquisition will support the development of the ground processing algorithms of the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission (S-3).

The land SAR test will help to validate and tune the S-3 algorithm in addition to ensuring a good continuity with the land-ice monitoring started by the CS mission. For this, three test areas, well known by the Glaciologist community, have been selected.

The first one is the so-called "Spirit zone", a sloping area where precise DEM from the SPIRIT (SPOT 5 stereoscopic survey of Polar Ice: Reference Images and Topographies) project are available and where TerraSAR-X acquisitions would be synchronised and collocated with CS measurements. The second and third test areas are respectively the "Vostok Lake" and "Dome C", characterised by a very flat surface with sloping surrounding terrain.

This SAR acquisition is limited in space and time in order to not inconvenience the usual land ice LRM users. In agreement with the ESA data distribution policy, the full land ice SAR dataset are made available to registered CryoSat users.

Feedback from users to the CS Mission Manager is highly encouraged in order to support future IPF evolutions for both the S-3 and CS missions.

  • Spirit zone will be activated between 17 to 30 November
  • "Vostok Lake" will be active between 24 and 30 November
  • "Dome C" will be active between 1 and 7 December

The new zones can be downloaded here and these are superimposed on the current mode mask.

Acquisition zones

Antarctica overlapped by the geographical masks (transparent purple: SAR over sea ice, yellow and light green: SARin and LRM over land ice) and sporadic SAR acquisition experiments over land ice