Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Potential of RADARSAT-2 stereo radargrammetry for the generation of glacier DEMs

  • C. PAPASODORO (a1) (a2), A. ROYER (a1) (a2), A. LANGLOIS (a1) (a2) and E. BERTHIER (a3)

The study of glaciers and ice caps in remote and cloudy regions remains difficult using current remote sensing tools. Here the potential of stereo radargrammetry (SRG) with RADARSAT-2 Wide Ultra-Fine images is explored for DEM extraction, elevation changes and mass-balance calculations on Barnes Ice Cap (Nunavut, Canada). Over low-relief terrain surrounding Barnes, a vertical precision of ~7 m (1σ confidence level) is measured, as well as an average vertical bias of ~4 m. Moreover, we show that the C-band penetration depth over the ice cap is insignificant at this time of the year (i.e. late ablation season). This is likely due to a wet surface and the presence of superimposed ice that leads to a surface radar response. Comparing the SRG DEMs with other datasets, an historical glacier-wide mass balance of −0.52 ± 0.19 m w.e. a−1 is estimated for 1960–2013, whereas it decreases to −1.06 ± 0.84 m w.e. a−1 between 2005 and 2013. This clear acceleration of mass loss is in agreement with other recent studies. Given its all-weather functionality and its possible use without ground control points, the RADARSAT-2 SRG technology represents an appropriate alternative for glacier monitoring in cloudy and remote regions.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Potential of RADARSAT-2 stereo radargrammetry for the generation of glacier DEMs
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Potential of RADARSAT-2 stereo radargrammetry for the generation of glacier DEMs
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Potential of RADARSAT-2 stereo radargrammetry for the generation of glacier DEMs
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Charles Papasodoro <>
Hide All
BerthierE, ArnaudY, VincentC and RémyF (2006) Biases of SRTM in high-mountain areas: implications for the monitoring of glacier volume changes. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33(8), L08502 (doi: 10.1029/2006GL025862)
BerthierE, SchieferE, ClarkeGKC, MenounosB and RémyF (2010) Contribution of Alaskan glaciers to sea-level rise derived from satellite imagery. Nat. Geosci., 3(2), 9295 (doi: 10.1038/ngeo737)
BerthierE and 10 others (2014) Glacier topography and elevation changes derived from Pléiades sub-meter stereo images. Cryosphere, 8(6), 22752291 (doi: 10.5194/tc-8-2275-2014)
BolchT and 6 others (2013) Mass loss of Greenland's glaciers and ice caps 2003–2008 revealed from ICESat laser altimetry data. Geophys. Res. Lett., 40(5), 875881 (doi: 10.1002/grl.50270)
BräutigamB and 8 others (2015) Quality assessment for the first part of the Tandem-X global digital elevation model. ISPRS – Int. Arch. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spat. Inf. Sci., XL-7/W3 (May 2015), 11371143 (doi: 10.5194/isprsarchives-XL-7-W3-1137-2015)
CapaldoP, CrespiM, FratarcangeliF, NascettiA and PieraliceF (2011) High-resolution SAR Radargrammetry: a first application with COSMO-SkyMed SpotLight imagery. IEEE Geosci. Remote Sens. Lett., 8(6), 11001104 (doi: 10.1109/LGRS.2011.2157803)
CapaldoP and 6 others (2015) Evaluation and comparison of different radargrammetric approaches for digital surface models generation from COSMO-SkyMed, TerraSAR-X, RADARSAT-2 imagery: analysis of beauport (Canada) test site. ISPRS J. Photogramm. Remote Sens., 100, 6070 (doi: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2014.05.007)
ChalifouxS (2015) RADARSAT Constellation Mission Update – Canadian Space Agency. POLinSAR 2015 & 1st BIOMASS Science Workshop, 29 p
ClavetD, ToutinT and KharboucheS (2011) Radarsat-2: une nouvelle source pour l'acquisition de données topographiques dans l'Arctique Canadien sans contrôle terrain. Can. J. Remote Sens., 37(5), 529534 (doi: 10.5589/m11-064)
DallJ, MadsenSN, KellerK and ForsbergR (2001) Topography and penetration of the Greenland ice sheet measured with airborne SAR interferometry. Geophys. Res. Lett., 28(9), 17031706 (doi: 10.1029/2000GL011787)
DupontF and 7 others (2012) Monitoring the melt season length of the Barnes Ice Cap over the 1979–2010 period using active and passive microwave remote sensing data. Hydrol. Process., 26(17), 26432652 (doi: 10.1002/hyp.9382)
DupontF and 6 others (2014) Modeling the microwave emission of bubbly ice: applications to blue ice and superimposed ice in the Antarctic and Arctic. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 52, 66396651 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2014.2299829)
GardnerA, MoholdtG, ArendtA and WoutersB (2012) Accelerated contributions of Canada's Baffin and Bylot Island glaciers to sea level rise over the past half century. Cryosphere, 6(5), 11031125 (doi: 10.5194/tc-6-1103-2012)
GrayL and 6 others (2015) CryoSat-2 delivers monthly and inter-annual surface elevation change for Arctic ice caps. Cryosphere, 9(5), 18951913 (doi: 10.5194/tc-9-1895-2015)
KääbA (2008) Glacier volume changes using ASTER satellite stereo and ICESat GLAS laser altimetry. A test study on Edgeøya, Eastern Svalbard. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 46(10), 28232830
KoronaJ, BerthierE, BernardM, RémyF and ThouvenotE (2009) SPIRIT. SPOT 5 stereoscopic survey of Polar Ice: reference images and topographies during the fourth International Polar Year (2007–2009). ISPRS J. Photogramm. Remote Sens., 64(2), 204212 (doi: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2008.10.005)
KrabillWB and 8 others (2002) Aircraft laser altimetry measurement of elevation changes of the Greenland ice sheet: technique and accuracy assessment. J. Geodyn., 34(3–4), 357376 (doi: 10.1016/S0264-3707(02)00040-6)
KriegerG and 6 others (2007) TanDEM-X: a satellite formation for high-resolution SAR interferometry. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 45(11), 33173341 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2007.900693)
MéricS, FayardF and PottierE (2009) Radargrammetric SAR image processing. In Pei-Gee Peter Ho, ed. Geoscience and remote sensing. InTech, 421454
MüllerK (2011) Microwave penetration in polar snow and ice: implications for GPR and SAR . PhD thesis, Geosciences Department, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, 101 p
NuthC and KääbA (2011) Co-registration and bias corrections of satellite elevation data sets for quantifying glacier thickness change. Cryosphere, 5(1), 271290 (doi: 10.5194/tc-5-271-2011)
OrvigS (1954) Glacial-meteorological observations on ice caps in Baffin. Geogr. Ann., 36, 193318, (doi: 10.2307/520205)
OstrowskiJA and ChengP (2000) DEM extraction from stereo SAR satellite imagery. In Proceedings of the IEEE IGARSS, vol. 5, 2176–2178 (doi: 10.1109/IGARSS.2000.858347)
PapasodoroC, BerthierE, RoyerA, ZdanowiczC and LangloisA (2015) Area, elevation and mass changes of the two southernmost ice caps of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago between 1952 and 2014. Cryosphere, 9(4), 15351550 (doi: 10.5194/tc-9-1535-2015)
PCI Geomatics (2013) OrthoEngine user guide . Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
PfefferWT and 18 others (2014) The Randolph Glacier Inventory: a globally complete inventory of glaciers. J. Glaciol., 60(221), 537552 (doi: 10.3189/2014JoG13J176)
QuinceyDJ and 13 others (2014) Digital terrain modeling and glacier topographic characterization. In Kargel JS and others eds. Global land ice measurements from space, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 113144
RaggamH, GutjahrK, PerkoR and SchardtM (2010) Assessment of the stereo-radargrammetric mapping potential of TerraSAR-X multibeam spotlight data. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 48(2), 971977 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2009.2037315)
RignotE, EchelmeyerK and KrabillWB (2001) Penetration depth of interferometric synthetic aperture radar signals in snow and ice. Geophys. Res. Lett., 28(18), 35013504 (doi: 10.1029/2000GL012484)
RottH (2009) Advances in interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) in earth system science, Prog. Phys. Geogr., 33(6), 769791 (doi: 10.1177/0309133309350263)
SneedWA, HookeRL and HamiltonGS (2008) Thinning of the south dome of Barnes Ice Cap, Arctic Canada, over the past two decades. Geology, 36(1), 71 (doi: 10.1130/G24013A.1)
SvobodaF and PaulF (2009) A new glacier inventory on southern Baffin Island, Canada, from ASTER data: I. Applied methods, challenges and solutions. Ann. Glaciol., 50(53), 1121 (doi:
ToutinT (2010) Impact of Radarsat-2 SAR ultrafine-mode parameters on stereo-radargrammetric DEMs. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 48(10), 38163823 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2010.2048715)
ToutinT (2011) State-of-the-art of geometric correction of remote sensing data: a data fusion perspective. Int. J. Image Data Fusion, 2(1), 335 (doi: 10.1080/19479832.2010.539188)
ToutinT (2012) Radarsat-2 DSM generation with New Hybrid, deterministic and empirical geometric modeling without GCP. IEEE Geosci. Remote Sens. Lett., 50(5), 20492055 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2011.2170693)
ToutinT and GrayL (2000) State-of-the-art of elevation extraction from satellite SAR data. ISPRS J. Photogramm. Remote Sens., 55(1), 1333 (doi: 10.1016/S0924-2716(99)00039-8)
ToutinT and OmariK (2011) A ‘New Hybrid’ modeling for geometric processing of Radarsat-2 data without User's GCP. Photogramm. Eng. Remote Sens., 77(6), 601608 (doi:
ToutinT, ChenierR, SchmittC and ZakharovI (2009) Calibration of radargrammetric DEMs from RADARSAT-2 high-resolution and fine-quad modes. IEEE Int. Geosci. Remote Sens. Symp., 5, 4143 (doi: 10.1109/IGARSS.2009.5417737)
ToutinT, OmariK, BlondelE, ClavetD and SchmittCV (2012) Scientist's idealism versus user's realism on radarsat-2 HR stereo capability without GCP: two cases over North and Arctic Sites in Canada. Photogramm. – Fernerkundung – Geoinf., 2012(4), 385394 (doi: 10.1127/1432-8364/2012/0125)
ToutinT, BlondelE, ClavetD and SchmittC (2013) Stereo radargrammetry with Radarsat-2 in the Canadian Arctic. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 51(5), 26012609 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2012.2211605)
TrüsselBL, MotykaRJ, TrufferM and LarsenCF (2013) Rapid thinning of lake-calving Yakutat Glacier and the collapse of the Yakutat Icefield, Southeast Alaska, USA. J. Glaciol., 59(213), 149161 (doi: 10.3189/2013J0G12J081)
VaughanDG and 13 others (2013) Observations: Cryosphere. In StockerTF, QinD, PlattnerG-K, TignorM, AllenSK, BoschungJ, NauelsA, XiaY, BexV and MidgleyPM eds. Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
VincentLA, ZhangX, BonsalBR and HoggWD (2002) Homogenization of daily temperatures over Canada. J. Clim., 15(11), 13221334 (doi:;2)
ZdanowiczC and 6 others (2012) Summer melt rates on Penny Ice Cap, Baffin Island: past and recent trends and implications for regional climate. J. Geophys. Res., 117(F2), F02006 (doi: 10.1029/2011JF002248)
ZhangG, FeiW, LiZ, ZhuX and LiD (2010) Evaluation of the RPC Model for Spaceborne SAR Imagery. Photogramm. Eng. Remote Sens., 76(6), 727733 (doi: 10.14358/PERS.76.6.727)
ZhangL, HeX, BalzT, WeiX and LiaoM (2011) Rational function modeling for spaceborne SAR datasets. ISPRS J. Photogramm. Remote Sens., 66(1), 133145 (doi: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2010.10.007)
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 14
Total number of PDF views: 164 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 302 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.