Scharien, Randall

Assistant Professor


Phone number: (250) 853-3577
Department: Geography

Research description:

-Remote sensing and the cryosphere
-Application of microwave remote sensing, synthetic aperture radar and radar polarimetry to the study of the ice-covered ocean
-Characterization of wind-waves and their effects on electromagnetic signatures
Expertise Profile
Geographer Randall Scharien uses remote sensing tools such as microwave satellites and synthetic aperture radar to learn about sea ice in the Arctic.

As the ice recedes, the ocean start to absorb more sunlight and the water grows increasingly warm. "We don't know how it is affecting weather changes further south," Dr. Scharien says, "or how it is changing the ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean."

Unlike other satellites, microwave satellites can penetrate light and cloud cover to gather information at any time of day. It gives scientists like Dr. Scharien an indication of whether we are losing ice, or if conditions are changing in a specific region, and it helps him deduce how receding ice will affect weather conditions, the biology of the upper ocean and the environment in the Arctic.

Microwave satellites cannot tell the whole story though. They don't allow Dr. Scharien to predict if the ice will break up earlier or later, if it is weak, or if it is absorbing a lot of sunshine during summer. He often travels to the Arctic to get data that is more comprehensive. He mounts a sensor onto a sled and tows it onto the sea ice to measure microwave signals from the surface. He also probes the ice with instruments that tell him about the ice's physical properties: "It tells us how much light it is absorbing and transmitting to the ocean, how strong it is, and what's its physical properties are."

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