Our research methods

We utilize a combination of in situ observations, remote sensing and numerical modeling of ice streams, glaciers and the ocean. Scientists from oceanography, glaciology, geodesy, and ice sheet modeling combine their results to gain a better understanding of this complex system. Here we present the main methods of our research.

We use ground-based, geodetic measurements of vertical deformation to record the cumulative effect of glacial-isostatic compensation processes and elastic deformation caused by the present ice mass balance.

Basal melting below the glacier tongue is believed to be a major factor in destabilizing the glacier and the  ice stream. Phase-sensitive radar (pRES) enables us to determine the basal melt rates under the floating ice tongue of the 79°N Glacier.

Data from various national and European Synthetic Aperture Radar systems, such as TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X, COSMO-Skymed, Sentinel-1 as well as archived data from ERS-1/2 and ENVISAT SAR) are used to detemrine the location of the grounding line, as well as to record the spatio-temporal variability of supra-glacial meltwater.

Understanding the dynamics of the grounding line, the transition between the grounded continental part of a glacier and the floating tongue, is essential for predicting the contribution of a glacier to sea-level changes.

The distribution of basal meltwater and its variability can be determined by measuring and interpreting the distribution of helium and neon isotopes from water samples taken between the cavity under the glacier tongue, over the fjords, to the marginal streams and into the interior of the ocean basin.

To determine the water properties of the ocean adjacent to the 79°N glacier, moorings are deployed on the seafloor in front of the glacier tongue to continuously record the flow velocity, temperature and salinity within the water column.

Subproject 8 utilizes near surface meteorological observations and a climate modelling system involving both atmospheric and surface mass balance models to calculate the surface melting of the glacier, and to investigate the interactions between atmospheric processes and the response of the glacier.


Project funding


Prof. Dr. Torsten Kanzow

Bussestraße 24
27568 Bremerhaven

Website: Mario.Hoppmann@awi.de

Social Media

Project parters