Ice fields and ice caps are not only important contributors to sea level rise but they act also as water storage and supply in various regions of the Earth. Dramatic losses in the ice volume of temperate glaciers have been observed through comparison of the SRTM DEMs from year 2000 with TanDEM-X DEMs acquired more than a decade later.
The present satellite based investigations allow a global view of the development of glaciers during the last 5 years and thus complement conventional glaciological work which focuses mainly on studies of individual glaciers.
In order to achieve the main goal of the TanDEM-X mission - the generation of a global SAR Digital Elevation Model (DEM) - parts of the Earth surface had to be covered several times according to the complexity of their topography and/or their backscattering properties. For coastal and mountainous areas repeat coverage was necessary in order to apply special processing techniques (e.g. multibaseline processing) which reduce information loss due to phase unwrapping errors. Since the operational start of the TanDEM-X mission multitemporal datasets have been acquired in regions including, among others, rapidly changing features like ice fields, icecaps and outlet glaciers. This allows the accurate quantification of short time changes in ice elevation, and consequently in volume and mass from beginning 2011 up to the present.