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NASA spotlights UWBRAD program

NASA spotlighted an Ohio State University-led research project in its 2016 Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) Annual Report.

Ohio State ElectroScience Laboratory Research Associates Mark Andrews and Domenic Belgiovane headed north in September to test the technology they created under the project, “UWBRAD: Ultra Wideband Software Defined Microwave Radiometer for Ice Sheet Subsurface Temperature Sensing.”

Project leader Joel Johnson, Professor and Chair of Ohio State’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica play an important role in the global climate. Knowing the temperature of the ice at different depths is central to modeling ice sheet movement behavior.

Within NASA’s Earth Science Division, ESTO performs strategic technology planning and manages the development of a range of advanced technologies for future science measurements and operational requirements. 

The ESTO report discusses how physical temperature plays an important role in learning more about the dynamic internal structure of the ice sheets. It highlights UWBRAD's breakthroughs in science.

"A new instrument, UWBRAD, aims to provide measurements of ice sheet thermal emission in order to remotely sense internal ice sheet temperature information. UWBRAD is designed to provide brightness temperature observations over the 0.5-2 GHz range using multiple frequency channels and full-bandwidth sampling of each channel," the report explains. "No methods currently exist for remotely sensing ice sheet internal temperatures; presently the only measured information is obtained from a small number of deep ice core sites. As an airborne instrument, UWBRAD could obtain data over wide areas."

The ESTO report also details how Ohio State researchers successfully tested UWBRAD on November 2015, using a four-channel prototype on a tower at the Dome-C site in Antarctica.

In 2016, the UWBRAD team applied lessons learned from the prototype demonstration to a full 12-channel airborne instrument, which had its first test flights in September onboard a Kenn Borek Airlines DC-3T aircraft over Greenland and parts of Canada.

"The tests provided ~ 10 hours of the first ultra-wideband microwave radiometer measurements of geophysical scenes including ice sheets. The project team intends to conduct additional flights and collect science data," ESTO reports.