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Ice & Snow

Ice thickness for Ice roads | Glacier and polar ice-cap research | Snow thickness and volume measurements

  • IceMap
  • IceMap GPR
IceMapIceMap GPR

Measuring the thickness and quantifying the amount of snow and ice is essential for many applications, including ski slope management, ensuring winter ice road safety, locating victims of avalanches, climate change investigations, glaciological and polar ice-cap research.

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a natural tool for imaging snow and ice as these materials are very transparent to GPR signals; allowing for deep penetration and mapping of features hidden under the surface.

Glaciology and Ice Sheets

Glaciers and ice-sheets are excellent environments for GPR. Growing interest in climate change has accelerated the use of GPR. Applications include characterizing the volume of ice, examining the ice structure to understand the paleo-climate and helping plan the use of this valuable supply of freshwater.

Characterizing the volume of ice

GPR has been used in the study of glaciers and ice sheets for many years. With modern light weight GPR systems, coupled with GPS positioning and multiple deployment options, the estimated ice depth over the extent of a glacier can be mapped, and changes monitored over time.

Case Study

glacier ice thickness
GPR profile showing the estimated ice depth of the Stagnation Glacier after compensating the data for topographic changes as determined from the GPS data.

Using GPR to find objects in ice

GPR can detect large metallic objects beneath the snow surface as metal is a strong reflector of GPR radio waves. In this example a pulseEKKO® GPR was used to search for the Lost Squadron, consisting of six P-38 Lightning fighters and two B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, that crash landed in Greenland in 1942. A P-38 nicknamed Glacier Girl, located at a depth of 85 m under the ice, was discovered by GPR surveys in the early 1990’s.

Case Study

GPR ice thickness
pulseEKKO® PRO GPR cross-section clearly showing a strong reflection at 85 meters below the surface.

Imaging Ice Sheets

Ice is very transparent to GPR signals, allowing tremendous penetration. GPR is also sensitive to subtle changes in the properties of ice layers. This makes it a powerful tool to image the internal structure of glaciers and ice sheets at a scale of meters or hundreds of meters.
GPR ice thickness
pulseEKKO® 500 MHz data showing the detailed internal layering and structure of the top 10m of an Antarctic ice sheet. Data courtesy of N. C. Kruetzmann, University of Canterbury, NZ.

GPR ice thickness
pulseEKKO® 25 MHz data showing the internal structure of the top 240 meters of ice (left) and the boundary between the ice and the rock on the side of the glacial valley (right). Data courtesy of Mette Riger-Kusk, University of Canterbury, NZ.

Snow Management

GPR is an effective tool for estimating snow thickness and can be used in a variety of applications ranging from avalanche prediction monitoring, evaluating ski slopes at resorts, detecting movement of avalanche victims and measuring water content in snow.

Ski Resort Snow Management

Snow thickness is a critical component of managing ski slopes. Knowing when to make or move snow has major cost implications. Daily mapping of snow thickness with SnowScan, our handheld and Groomer-Mounted GPR system, enable ski resorts to easily manage grooming and snow-making operations.
Snow thickness displayed onto Google Earth™ gathered by using a SnowScan system with a GPS unit.

Forecast supply of freshwater by estimating snow pack volume

In northern regions and elevated areas, snow pack develops in the winter and melts during the summer. Snow pack represents a valuable water reservoir and its thickness is required for hydrogeology forecasting. GPR readily maps snow thicknesses by making use of the GPR wave velocity to use in snow-to-water conversion factors.

Case Study

GPR lines
GPR cross-section showing the snow to ground boundary from which the snow depth can be estimated.

Ice Thickness

In Alaska and Northern Canada, ice roads and runways are regularly used to transport people, goods and equipment to isolated communities, exploration camps or mine sites. IceMap™ GPR systems allow for safe travel despite the changing climate.

GPR lines
IceMap™ GPR systems provide a rapid means of regularly checking ice thickness conditions.
GPR lines
Time-lapse of an ice bridge thickening over time.
GPR lines
GPS positioned field data enable creation of ice thickness maps and time-lapse views to quickly monitor changes over time.


Sensors & Software GPR Systems


  • Easy to use, flexible operation
  • Ground-coupled GPR to provide the best quality, deepest penetration and highest resolution data possible
  • Intuitive and powerful processing software to efficiently analyse and report results
  • Industry recognized GPR expertise and support to help you maximize your GPR returns
  • We offer a selection of systems for Ice and Snow applications, so you can choose the one that is best for your project needs.
concrete scanner
The Noggin offers the ultimate flexibility. Choose between four different center frequencies and four different configurations to suit your application. Noggin systems also offer custom data acquisition options.

concrete scanner
pulseEKKO® GPR systems provide unparalleled performance with a wide-range of frequencies for applications ranging from deep mineral exploration and glaciology to high-resolution geotechnical investigations and concrete imaging.
concrete scanner
IceMap™ is our full featured turnkey solution to continuously monitor rapidly changing ice thickness in real time to ensure the safety of all travelers with a simple user interface and parameters that are optimized for best quality data.
concrete scanner
The IcePicker software enables the user to pick the bottom of ice reflection and output a report of GPS positions and ice thicknesses. The data can be displayed in Google Earth or the QuickMap software to produce map images of ice thickness, or exported to GIS packages.
concrete scanner
EKKO_Project is the all-inclusive software solution for managing, displaying, processing and interpreting GPR data.

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