SP1.2: SAR tomography for 3D imaging of snow and firn structures

Subproject 1.2

SAR tomography for 3D imaging of snow and firn structures

Structures in the firn and snow cover on glaciers can be caused by annual melt/freeze cycles, but also by internal water percolation or refreezing. Additionally, water channels within the glaciers are important indicators for melt water routing in geophysical and hydrological glacier models. The highest changes occur within the upper layer (first tens of meters) and are therefore of importance to be monitored. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) tomography is an evolving 3D imaging technique that enables the mapping of subsurface properties of glaciers and ice sheets with high spatial resolution, taking advantage of the penetration of radar signals up to several tens of meters into dry snow, firn, and ice (Tebaldini et al., 2016, Fischer et al., 2019). The main objective of this doctoral project is to exploit and improve this powerful 3D imaging technique and to establish the relation of the vertical reflectivities to geophysical snow/ice parameters. Moreover, new tomographic imaging modes and techniques like transmission, MIMO and subaperture-based tomography will be explored in view of their potential to gain further information about the internal structure and dielectric properties of snow and glaciers. In the frame of the project dedicated campaigns on Vernagtferner and Hintereisferner will be conducted, where multiple sensors collect data to estimate and characterise the internal structures of snow and ice regions. For this, the airborne multi-modal SAR system of DLR, as well as ground-based laser and radar systems will be deployed to acquire both multi-angular and multi-temporal data. Simultaneously, point/grid-based measurements and satellite data will be collected and evaluated. Strong links exist to SP1.1, SP1.3, SP2.2, SP2.3 and SP3.1.

For specific information on the sub-project please contact: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gehard Krieger, LHFT, Institute of Microwaves and Photonics (LHFT), Cauerstr. 9, 91058 Erlangen, T: 08153-28-3054, gerhard.krieger@fau.de

Co-PIs: I. Hajnsek (DLR HR / ETH ZH), C. Mayer (BAdW), H. Rott (ENVEO IT)


Get to know our project affiliated PhD students

Patricia Schlenk

Patricia Schlenk


I am a PhD student both at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), being supervised by  Prof. Gerhard Krieger (FAU/DLR) and Prof. Irena Hajnsek (DLR).

I studied environmental engineering at the Technical University of Munich. Furthermore, I specialized in hydraulic engineering and water management as well as hydrology. The goal of my master thesis was to build, to adapt and to automate an existing Wet Snow Mapping Algorithm by Thomas Nagler in order to get detailed information about snow as well as glacier melt. This thesis really peaked my interest in SAR and snow/ glacier research and I believe to provide a contribution to the further development in this field of study.

In addition to my academic interests, I have always been interested in other cultures and foreign countries. I went to high school in the U.S. and New Zealand for a total of eight months, studied French for a year at the Université inter-âges in Paris, and spent a semester at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. I was able to put the experience and knowledge I gained during my time abroad to good use as a student representative and in my work at the TUM Center for Study and Teaching for five years. There I advised mostly international students on problems within their studies. The IDP M³OCCA with its interdisciplinary and international approach is an excellent continuation of my previous work.