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Radar Methods for the Exploration of Glaciers


Steenson, Bernard Owen (1951) Radar Methods for the Exploration of Glaciers. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/3YY8-XC87.


The problem of finding the depths of glaciers and the current methods are discussed briefly. Radar methods are suggested as a possible improvement for, or adjunct to, seismic and gravity survey methods. The feasibility of propagating electromagnetic waves in ice and the maximum range to be expected are then investigated theoretically with the aid of experimental data on the dielectric properties of ice. It is found that the maximum expected range is great enough to measure the depth of many glaciers at the lower radar frequencies if there is not too much liquid water present. Greater ranges can be attained by going to lower frequencies.

The results are given of two expeditions in two different years to the Seward Glacier in the Yukon Territory. Experiments were conducted on a small valley glacier whose depth was determined by seismic sounding. Many echoes were received but their identification was uncertain. Using the best echoes, a profile was obtained each year, but they were not in exact agreement with each other. It could not be definitely established that echoes had been received from bedrock. Agreement with seismic methods for a considerable number of glaciers would have to be obtained before radar methods could be relied upon. The presence of liquid water in the ice is believed to be one of the greatest obstacles. Besides increasing the attenuation and possibly reflecting energy, it makes it impossible to predict the velocity of propagation. The equipment used was far from adequate for such purposes, so many of the difficulties could be attributed to this. Partly because of this, and the fact that there are glaciers with very little liquid water present, radar methods are believed to be worthy of further research for the exploration of glaciers.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:(Electrical Engineering and Physics)
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Electrical Engineering
Minor Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Pickering, William Hayward (advisor)
  • Sharp, Robert P. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:1 January 1951
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Office of Naval ResearchUNSPECIFIED
Arctic Institute of North AmericaUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10092014-103732963
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8684
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Oct 2014 20:38
Last Modified:04 May 2023 18:51

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