A trip to the desert may sound like the wrong place for a glaciology group to go, but that’s exactly what we did the other weekend. After packing up the radar that we usually use on the Greenland ice sheet, I drove down with my research group to the Mojave Desert. Situated in an abandoned part of Southern CA about 100 miles outside of Las Vegas, the Mojave is home to sand dunes the size of small mountains, and buried lava tubes.
These sand dunes may not be ice, but they actually have some similar material properties and could provide a setting to conduct similar tests to an ice sheet (minus a long and expensive trip to Antarctica or Greenland). Instead of using radar to map out the bed and layers of an ice sheet, the radar could be used to map out the layers of sand and the transition from sand to bed rock at the bottom of the dune. If successful, the dunes could be a useful place to do initial tests before implementing new techniques on an ice sheet.
The testing was only preliminary since the fieldwork was done in conjunction with a weekend geophysics class field trip, however initial processing of the data suggests that we can detect the bed of the sand dunes. If further processing shows that dunes work to test our radar, maybe we will be back to the desert again. Here’s some more photos I took over the trip.