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Waves on the ice – Canadian 'ice road' trucks in TanDEM-X's 'radar eye'

13 March 2019

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Ice road truckers in Canada – symbolically 'at the end of the world' – with their massive trucks travelling over the frozen lakes in the Canadian northwest, are well known around the world thanks to numerous TV programmes.

The ice roads are open for only a few weeks per year. During this time, thousands of tonnes of freight are moved across these 'ice highways', as the frozen lakes in winter act as seasonal roads and provide an effective and economical way to reach remote communities and businesses in the coldest regions. Nevertheless, the business remains risky – and climate change is compounding the difficulties faced by those using the ice roads.

In a study, Joost van der Sanden from the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation investigated the benefits of TanDEM-X in supporting ice road management. The radar image (Image 1) shown here illustrates one result of the work – fast-moving vehicles create undulating elevations and depressions in the ice cover.

Especially over shallow waters, these can lead to the ice breaking up and thus endanger the safe passage of traffic. The study focused on the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Source: DLR

Image credit: DLR - Uplift and subsidence map derived from TanDEM-X data

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