94 GHz radar backscatter characteristics of alpine glacier ice

W. D. Harcourt*, D. A. Robertson, D. G. Macfarlane, B. R. Rea, M. Spagnolo

*Corresponding author for this work

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Measuring the radar backscatter characteristics of glacier ice at different frequencies and incidence angles is fundamental to predicting the glacier mapping performance of a sensor. However, such measurements at 94 GHz do not exist. To address this knowledge gap, we collected 94 GHz radar backscatter data from the surface of Rhônegletscher in Switzerland using the All-Weather Volcano Topography Imaging Sensor (AVTIS2) real-aperture Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave radar. We determine the mean normalized radar cross section to be −9.9 dB. The distribution closely follows a log-normal distribution with a high goodness of fit (R2 = 0.99) which suggests that radar backscatter is diffuse and driven by surface roughness. Further, we quantified the uncertainty of AVTIS2 3D point clouds to be 1.30–3.72 m, which is smaller than other ground-based glacier surface mapping radars. These results demonstrate that glacier surfaces are an efficient scattering target at 94 GHz, hence demonstrating the suitability of millimeter-wave radar for glacier monitoring.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GL104721
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2023


  • Alpine glacier
  • Radar backscatter
  • Surface roughness
  • Point clouds
  • Millimeter‐wave radar


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