ARCTIC15 Field Campaign

Author Giuseppe Parella (DLR Microwaves and Radar Institute)

ARCTIC15 is a campaign promoted by the Microwaves and Radar Institute of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), carried out in cooperation with the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organization (DALO) as well as ETH Zurich, and with the support of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI). It takes place in Greenland from mid-April to end-May 2015 with the objective of collecting polarimetric-interferometric SAR data at different frequencies (X-, C-, S-, L- and P-band) over different facies of the ice sheet, while the objective of the DALO part of the campaign (DALOEX 2015) is to explore the possibilities that advanced SAR systems provide for surveillance etc. in Arctic scenarios. The measurements are performed using the DLR’s airborne F-SAR sensor. In total, the activities involve five test sites and include the collection of ground-measurements, like ground penetrating radar (GPR) profiles and snow and firn stratigraphy as well as the installation of GPS stations and corner reflectors for the calibration of the SAR acquisitions. 


Carrying out stratigraphic measurements (photo by Silvan Leinss)


Installing corner reflectors equipped with a screen to prevent snow from accumulating inside. (photo by Silvan Leinss)

Accomplishing a campaign like ARCTIC15 requires big efforts in terms of costs to bear and energy to spend. Efforts that are worth for an extremely challenging objective: understanding the dynamics of Greenland and their relation to climate change. Indeed, the Arctic and, in general, the Cryosphere of our planet are particularly sensitive to temperature fluctuations. The primary effect of global warming is the variation in snow and ice cover extent which, in turn, affects air temperature, sea level and ocean currents. Moreover, the presence of snow and ice is a controlling factor of the Earth’s surface temperature as they reflect back most of the incoming solar radiation, avoiding further heating.

With the ARCTIC15 campaign, we aim to get a deeper understanding of SAR measurements from the different facies of Greenland and to develop innovative techniques for the extraction of glaciological parameters on large scale with high spatial resolution. For this, electromagnetic models are being developed at both research institutions, DLR and ETH, in order to gain a physical understanding of the interaction of the radar signal with surface and subsurface features determining the SAR measurements at the different test sites.

We wish a successful campaign to our ground- and airborne-team and thank them for their remarkable efforts!


Our ground team (left: Martin Keller (DLR), middle: Silvan Leinss (ETH), right: Georg Fischer (DLR)) back from a long day of field-work.

Please read our ARTIC15 BLOG