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56 Estimation of Glaciers and Sea-Ice Extent and their Properties

Part 5. Remote Sensing

  1. Julienne Stroeve1,
  2. David Long2,
  3. Josefino C Comiso3,
  4. Ted A Scambos1,
  5. Chris A Shuman3

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa063

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Stroeve, J., Long, D., Comiso, J. C., Scambos, T. A. and Shuman, C. A. 2006. Estimation of Glaciers and Sea-Ice Extent and their Properties. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 5:56.

Author Information

  1. 1

    National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, US

  2. 2

    Brigham Young University, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Provo, UT, US

  3. 3

    NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, US

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


Past satellite missions have demonstrated the utility of spaceborne remote sensing in studies of polar ice. Because of their ability to “see” into polar ice without regard to cloud cover or solar lighting, microwave remote sensing instruments have played and will continue to play an increasing role in such studies and in long-term monitoring the polar regions. Microwave sensors can be either active radars which transmit and receive, or receive-only radiometers. Spaceborne microwave sensors such as radiometers and scatterometers offer wide-area, frequent coverage but at lower resolution and a longer historical database. The historic data sets are particularly important since they provide a baseline for studies of global change. Synthetic aperture radar systems possess high resolution capability but have restricted spatial and temporal coverage. Microwave sensors are sensitive to snow and ice structure and are particularly sensitive to freeze/thaw conditions. Optical sensors can also be active (Lidars) or passive. Laser altimeters are an example of an active optical sensor. They provide accurate ice sheet topography information. Passive optical sensing is useful in change detection and infrared ice temperature sensing. In this chapter, essential background in microwave and optical remote sensing of sea-ice, glaciers and ice sheets is provided, along with application examples.


  • emission;
  • glacier;
  • ice sheet;
  • microwave sensing;
  • radiometer;
  • scattering;
  • scatterometer;
  • sea ice