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Stanford researchers say solar radio signals could be used to monitor melting ice sheets

Sean Peters sets up the test site on a Glacier.
Image credit: TJ Young)
Jul 14 2021
Faculty, Fellow, Research, Stanford

The sun provides a daunting source of electromagnetic disarray – chaotic, random energy emitted by the massive ball of gas arrives to Earth in a wide spectrum of radio frequencies. But in that randomness, Stanford researchers have discovered the makings of a powerful tool for monitoring ice and polar changes on Earth and across the solar system.

In a new study, a team of glaciologists and electrical engineers show how radio signals naturally emitted by the sun can be turned into a passive radar system for measuring the depth of ice sheets and successfully tested it on a glacier in Greenland. The technique, detailed in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on July 14, could lead to a cheaper, lower power and more pervasive alternative to current methods of collecting data, according to the researchers. The advance may offer large-scale, prolonged insight into melting ice sheets and glaciers, which are among the dominant causes of sea-level rise threatening coastal communities around the world.

Lead author, Sean Peters, is a 2018 DARE Fellow.

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