Stanford University
Glacier landscape

Ice-observing experts gather at Stanford

Stanford Earth hosted more than 100 scientists from around the world July 8-12 for an International Glaciological Society (IGS) symposium on the cutting-edge field of ice-penetrating radar.

ClockJuly 09, 2019

For the first time, Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth) hosted the International Glaciological Society (IGS) for a symposium on the cutting-edge field of ice-penetrating radar. More than 100 scientists from around the world gathered July 8-12 for the symposium, “Five Decades of Radioglaciology.” Radioglaciology is the study of ice sheets, glaciers, and icy planets using radar to observe processes and conditions below the surface.

On Monday, July 8, members from the Stanford Radio Glaciology research group led a pre-symposium short course on ice-penetrating radar science and engineering for student and early-career researchers visiting campus for the symposium.

“Our research focuses on advancing the scientific and technical foundations of geophysical ice-penetrating radar, so it’s an honor to host the international radioglaciology community here on campus,” said symposium organizer Dustin Schroeder, an assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford Earth. “The additional opportunity for my students, postdocs, and me to share our knowledge and love of the subject with a whole new group of young students and researchers makes it really special.”

Anna Broome lecturing
Anna Broome, a PhD student in Electrical Engineering and a member of the Stanford Radio Glaciology research group, teaches a lecture on radar systems on Monday, July 9. (Photo credit: Matt Chalker)

A powerful technique

Radio-echo sounding is a powerful geophysical technique for understanding subsurface conditions of terrestrial and planetary ice masses at local, regional and global scales. Airborne radar-sounding data captured with airplanes or drones have been used to observe ice thickness, topography and glacial layers for more than five decades.

More recently, scientists also have used radar-sounding data to estimate the extent and configuration of subglacial water, the ice-sheet surface, the geometry of subglacial bedforms, the spatial variation of basal melt, the temperature within glaciers, and the transition between frozen and thawed beds.

Additionally, planetary radar sounders have been used or are planned to observe the subsurface and near-surface conditions of Mars, Earth’s Moon, comets, and the icy moons of Jupiter. These instruments provide critical subsurface context for surface-sensing, particle, and potential-field instruments in planetary exploration payloads.

The symposium’s sessions span advances in radar-sounding systems, mission concepts, signal processing, data analysis, modeling and scientific interpretation.

“So many of the critical processes governing the evolution, stability, and sea-level contributions of Earth’s continental ice sheets are occurring far beneath the surface. So it’s great to have a week dedicated to exchanging ideas with other researches advancing our ability to observe and investigate those processes using ice-penetrating radar,” said Schroeder, who is also an assistant professor of electrical engineering by courtesy and an affiliate of the Woods Institute for the Environment.

Dustin Schroeder | TEDxStanford

Radio glaciologist Dustin Schroeder discusses how ice-penetrating radar is helping us learn about future sea-level rise — and what the melting ice will mean for us all.

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Frozen secrets: Geophysicist explores glaciers with radar

"In some ways, we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about what’s beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet,” according to Dustin Schroeder, a radio glaciologist at Stanford Earth.

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Media Contacts

Danielle T. Tucker

School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, 650-497-9541

Dustin Schroeder

School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

(650) 725-7861,

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