Earth-reflected GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) signals have become an attractive tool for remote sensing, e.g., ocean altimetry and scatterometric ocean wind measurements. For ice sheets, the large penetration capability and the large-scale surface averaging of the L-band signals could open a new look on firnpack characteristics like accumulation rates. In this paper we investigate theoretically reflections of GPS (Global Positioning System) signals from ice sheets. We derive a model of the reflection signal and perform simulations of airborne and spaceborne measurements. The results show that the signal, though complex, is sensitive to the roughness of the snow surface (and internal interfaces) and to firn parameters like accumulation rates. To extract valuable and concise information from the complex signal, we derive an example procedure that focusses on particular ground zones during a satellite receiver pass. The results indicate that it should be possible in principle to separately infer surface and firnpack parameters from the measurements. We conclude that GNSS reflections over ice sheets should be further persued, in particular by obtaining experimental data.
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