On the retrieval of sea ice thickness and snow depth using concurrent laser altimetry and L-band remote sensing data

Other literature type, Article English OPEN
L. Zhou ; S. Xu ; J. Liu ; B. Wang ; B. Wang (2018)
  • Publisher: Copernicus Publications
  • Journal: The Cryosphere (issn: 1994-0416, eissn: 1994-0424)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.5194/tc-12-993-2018
  • Subject: GE1-350 | QE1-996.5 | Environmental sciences | Geology

<p>The accurate knowledge of sea ice parameters, including sea ice thickness and snow depth over the sea ice cover, is key to both climate studies and data assimilation in operational forecasts. Large-scale active and passive remote sensing is the basis for the estimation of these parameters. In traditional altimetry or the retrieval of snow depth with passive microwave remote sensing, although the sea ice thickness and the snow depth are closely related, the retrieval of one parameter is usually carried out under assumptions over the other. For example, climatological snow depth data or as derived from reanalyses contain large or unconstrained uncertainty, which result in large uncertainty in the derived sea ice thickness and volume. In this study, we explore the potential of combined retrieval of both sea ice thickness and snow depth using the concurrent active altimetry and passive microwave remote sensing of the sea ice cover. Specifically, laser altimetry and L-band passive remote sensing data are combined using two forward models: the L-band radiation model and the isostatic relationship based on buoyancy model. Since the laser altimetry usually features much higher spatial resolution than L-band data from the Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite, there is potentially covariability between the observed snow freeboard by altimetry and the retrieval target of snow depth on the spatial scale of altimetry samples. Statistically significant correlation is discovered based on high-resolution observations from Operation IceBridge (OIB), and with a nonlinear fitting the covariability is incorporated in the retrieval algorithm. By using fitting parameters derived from large-scale surveys, the retrievability is greatly improved compared with the retrieval that assumes flat snow cover (i.e., no covariability). Verifications with OIB data show good match between the observed and the retrieved parameters, including both sea ice thickness and snow depth. With detailed analysis, we show that the error of the retrieval mainly arises from the difference between the modeled and the observed (SMOS) L-band brightness temperature (TB). The narrow swath and the limited coverage of the sea ice cover by altimetry is the potential source of error associated with the modeling of L-band TB and retrieval. The proposed retrieval methodology can be applied to the basin-scale retrieval of sea ice thickness and snow depth, using concurrent passive remote sensing and active laser altimetry based on satellites such as ICESat-2 and WCOM.</p>
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