Scientists measure snow density in Greenland

Polar ice

10 November 2016 by Karen Christian

Last month, scientists from the Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling (CPOM) headed to Greenland to carry out vital fieldwork as part of a NERC-CryoSat contract to calibrate and validate measurements taken by the satellite.

Braving temperatures as low as -29°C, a team led by Professor Andrew Shepherd and Dr Anna Hogg collected samples and data from three sites along a transect which goes from the ice sheet's margin to the dry snow zone at its summit.

In 2014, researchers noticed that changes in the snow once it had melted had created issues for CryoSat's radar, complicating the measurements. The data gathered in Greenland last month will be important for ensuring that the measurements taken by the European Space Agency's CryoSat are correct. Formal reports will be available once the data has been fully analysed.

The team collected ice cores to measure snow density and depth and data to measure the snow's depth down to last summer's melt layer. They also placed metal surface reflectors on the snow surface to calibrate the airborne measurements.

Watch their fieldwork video below to see how they drilled the ice cores and find out why this work is important.


CPOM is a NERC Centre of Excellence. Its directorate is based at the University of Leeds, with researchers and affiliates based at University College London, the University of Reading and the University of Bristol. They also work closely with colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey, National Oceanography Centre, the National Centre for Earth Observation and the European Space Agency.