ICEAGE - Modelling Snow-ice Cover Evolution and Associated Gravitational Effects with GOCE Constraints

In the frame of global warming, various methods for the monitoring of glaciers and ice caps are applied. In this context, the main objective of the project “Modelling snow-ice cover evolution and associated gravitational effects with GOCE constraints (ICEAGE)” was to set-up a processing environment serving to produce a suite of combined cryogravic models of the Eurasian Arctic Sector. Its snow and ice resources (SIR) were determined and mapped with respect to their present state on the one hand and to their fluctuations on the other hand.

Short Description

This investigation of SIR was performed using terrestrial, space- borne interferometric, altimetric, and gravity field data. Special emphasis was given to estimate the impact and scientific contribution of ESA’s satellite gravity gradiometry mission GOCE to regional inland cryospheric studies.

By comparing consecutive geometrical models, changes in the cryosphere and its masses are detectable. These variations in ice masses can also be seen in changes of the Earth’s gravity field. Thus, a detailed knowledge of the gravity field can deliver valuable information of temporal mass variations in the cryosphere.

In consequence, the Institute of Navigation and Satellite Geodesy, TU Graz, and the Institute of Digital Image Processing, Remote Sensing Group, JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungs- gesellschaft mbH, investigated cryospheric changes within the non-homogenous gravity field.

To obtain the most accurate regional gravity field information, gravity gradients observed by GOCE were used as input data for a least squares collocation process, resulting in gravity anomalies and geoid heights for the test region. These computations were compared to local results of numerical forward modelling, based on a digital terrain model enhanced by vertical density distribution simulations.

As study areas several large European ice caps situated around the Barents Sea, namely the main ice sheet in north Novaya Zemlya, ice domes in north-eastern Svalbard, and ice caps in the central part of Franz Josef Land have been selected.

In the light of climate research the investigation of the cryosphere contributes to a better understanding and forecasting of recent and potential changes of the largest European glaciers, while the improved knowledge of the geoid provides a solid datum for glacier remote sensing and mapping in the study regions.

Project Partners


Graz University of Technology, Institute of Navigation and Satellite Geodesy - 2008 – 2009: Prof. Roland Pail, since 2010: Florian Heuberger


JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH, Institute of Digital Image Processing - Aleksey Sharov

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