Articles | Volume 7, issue 6
Research article
12 Dec 2013
Research article |  | 12 Dec 2013

Interferometric swath processing of Cryosat data for glacial ice topography

L. Gray, D. Burgess, L. Copland, R. Cullen, N. Galin, R. Hawley, and V. Helm

Abstract. We have derived digital elevation models (DEMs) over the western part of the Devon Ice Cap in Nunavut, Canada, using "swath processing" of interferometric data collected by Cryosat between February 2011 and January 2012. With the standard ESA (European Space Agency) SARIn (synthetic aperture radar interferometry) level 2 (L2) data product, the interferometric mode is used to map the cross-track position and elevation of the "point-of-closest-approach" (POCA) in sloping glacial terrain. However, in this work we explore the extent to which the phase of the returns in the intermediate L1b product can also be used to map the heights of time-delayed footprints beyond the POCA. We show that there is a range of average cross-track slopes (~ 0.5 to ~ 2°) for which the returns will be dominated by those beneath the satellite in the main beam of the antenna so that the resulting interferometric phase allows mapping of heights in the delayed range window beyond the POCA. In this way a swath of elevation data is mapped, allowing the creation of DEMs from a sequence of L1b SARIn Cryosat data takes. Comparison of the Devon results with airborne scanning laser data showed a mean difference of order 1 m with a standard deviation of about 1 m. The limitations of swath processing, which generates almost 2 orders of magnitude more data than traditional radar altimetry, are explored through simulation, and the strengths and weaknesses of the technique are discussed.