The impact of the snow cover on sea-ice thickness products, retrieved by Ku band radar altimeters


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Robert.Ricker [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

Snow on sea ice is a relevant polar climate parameter related to ocean-atmospheric interactions and surface albedo. It also remains an important factor for sea-ice thickness products retrieved from Ku-band satellite radar altimeters like Envisat or CryoSat-2, which is currently on its mission and the subject of many recent studies. Such satellites sense the height of the sea-ice surface above the sea level, which is called sea-ice freeboard. By assuming hydrostatic equilibrium and that the main scattering horizon is given by the snow-ice interface, the freeboard can be transformed into sea-ice thickness. Therefore, information about the snow load on hemispherical scale is crucial. Due to the lack of sufficient satellite products, only climatological values are used in current studies. Since such values do not represent the high variability of snow distribution in the Arctic, they can be a substantial contributor to the total sea-ice thickness uncertainty budget. Secondly, recent studies suggest that the snow layer cannot be considered as homogenous, but possibly rather featuring a complex stratigraphy due to wind compaction and/or ice lenses. Therefore, the Ku-band radar signal can be scattered at internal layers, causing a shift of the main scattering horizon towards the snow surface. This alters the freeboard and thickness retrieval as the assumption that the main scattering horizon is given by the snow-ice interface is no longer valid and introduces a bias. Here, we present estimates for the impact of snow depth uncertainties and snow properties on CryoSat-2 sea-ice thickness retrievals. We therefore compare CryoSat-2 freeboard measurements with field data from ice mass-balance buoys and aircraft campaigns from the CryoSat Validation Experiment. This unique validation dataset includes airborne laser scanner and radar altimeter measurements in spring coincident to CryoSat-2 overflights, and allows us to evaluate how the main scattering horizon is altered by the presence of a complex snow stratigraphy.



Item Type
Conference (Invited talk)
Authors
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Primary Division
Programs
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Peer revision
Not peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Published
Event Details
AGU Fall Meeting, 01 Dec 2015 - 01 Dec 2015, San Francisco.
Eprint ID
48624
Cite as
Ricker, R. , Hendricks, S. , Perovich, D. K. and Helm, V. (2015): The impact of the snow cover on sea-ice thickness products, retrieved by Ku band radar altimeters , AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, December 2015 - December 2015 .


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