Environmental parameters of the arctic tundra

The arctic tundra is an unglaciated, treeless landscape characterized by the presence of continuous permafrost. The tundra is vegetated by low vegetation such as grass and sedges, herbs, little bushes, lichens and mosses. Wetlands are present as well as debris covered unvegetated areas. As the Tundra is mainly uninhabited and there is almost no infrastructure, research in the field is a logistic challenge and expensive. Thus remote sensing is a good and cost efficient opportunity to map and monitor this area. Due to frequent cloudy conditions and permanent darkness during the winter month, the use of optical satellite data is limited. As radar waves are almost unaffected by clouds and operate independent of sunlight, radar remote sensing is a good opportunity to receive information about the state of the tundra in large areas near real time.

Permafrost in Greenland

The radar signal is influenced by a lot of different factors, for example surface structure, vegetation type, and soil moisture. To understand the signal and to map and monitor the tundra, the signal needs to be evaluated carefully .

The current research project regarding this topic is called “ZackSAR”. Here, radar remote sensing data are evaluated for Zackenberg valley in north east Greenland. In 2013 and 2014, expeditions took place in the area. During field work, the environmental parameters were mapped and measured at a high level of detail. Currently, those data are analyzed in combination with the corresponding satellite images (mostly from the TerraSAR-X radar satellite).


Jennifer Sobiech-Wolf

Related Topics

Polar Meteorology

Polar Meteorology

Earth Observing Systems

Remote sensing technology for the polar regions

Sea Ice Motion and Deformation

Drift and deformation of sea ice


Observation of coastal polynias

Ice Shelves and Icebergs

Mass loss of the antarctic ice shield

Snow Accumulation

Retrieval of snow accumulation rates


The expeditions were funded by the EU Programme Interact Transnational Access.