Arctic sea ice freeboard from AltiKa and comparison with CryoSat-2 and Operation IceBridge

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Armitage, T. W. K. ; Ridout, A. L. (2015)

Satellite radar altimeters have improved our knowledge of Arctic sea ice thickness over the past decade. The main sources of uncertainty in sea ice thickness retrievals are associated with inadequate knowledge of the snow layer depth and the radar interaction with the snow pack. Here we adapt a method of deriving sea ice freeboard from CryoSat-2 to data from the AltiKa Ka band radar altimeter over the 2013–14 Arctic sea ice growth season. AltiKa measures basin-averaged freeboards between 4.4 cm and 6.9 cm larger than CryoSat-2 in October and March, respectively. Using airborne laser and radar measurements from spring 2013 and 2014, we estimate the effective scattering horizon for each sensor. While CryoSat-2 echoes penetrate to the ice surface over first-year ice and penetrate the majority (82 ± 3%) of the snow layer over multiyear ice, AltiKa echoes are scattered from roughly the midpoint (46 ± 5%) of the snow layer over both ice types.
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