The Greenland ice sheet is an area of great interest to the scientific community due to its role as an important bellwether for the global climate. Satellite-borne scatterometers are particularly well-suited to studying temporal changes in the Greenland ice sheet because of their high spatial coverage, frequent sampling, and sensitivity to the presence of liquid water. The dry snow zone is the largest component of the Greenland ice sheet and is identified as the region that experiences negligible annual melt. Due to the lack of melt in the dry snow zone, backscatter was previously assumed to be relatively constant over time in this region. However, this thesis shows that a small seasonal variation in backscatter is present in QuikSCAT data in the dry snow zone. Understanding the cause of this seasonal variability is important to verify the accuracy of QuikSCAT measurements, to better understand the ice sheet conditions, and to improve future scatterometer calibration efforts that may use ice sheets as calibration targets.This thesis provides a study of the temporal behavior of backscatter in the dry snow zone of the Greenland ice sheet focusing on seasonal variation. Spatial averaging of backscatter and the Karhunen-Lo`eve transform are used to identify and study the dominant patterns in annual backscatter behavior. Several QuikSCAT instrumental parameters are tested as possible causes of seasonal variation in backscatter in the dry snow zone to verify the accuracy of QuikSCAT products. None of the tested parameters are found to be related to seasonal variation. Further evidence is given that suggests that the cause of the seasonal variation is geophysical and several geophysical factors are tested. Temperature is found to be highly related to dry snow backscatter and therefore may be driving the seasonal variation in backscatter in the dry snow zone.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Greenland ice sheet, scatterometer calibration, QuikSCAT, seasonal variation, dry snow zone