New insights into radiative transfer within sea ice derived from autonomous optical propagation measurements

Christian.Katlein [ at ]


The radiative transfer of shortwave solar radiation through the sea ice cover of the polar oceans is a crucial aspect of energy partitioning at the atmosphere–ice–ocean interface. A detailed understanding of how sunlight is reflected and transmitted by the sea ice cover is needed for an accurate representation of critical processes in climate and ecosystem models, such as the ice–albedo feedback. Due to the challenges associated with ice internal measurements, most information about radiative transfer in sea ice has been gained by optical measurements above and below the sea ice. To improve our understanding of radiative transfer processes within the ice itself, we developed a new kind of instrument equipped with a number of multispectral light sensors that can be frozen into the ice. A first prototype consisting of a 2.3 m long chain of 48 sideward planar irradiance sensors with a vertical spacing of 0.05 m was deployed at the geographic North Pole in late August 2018, providing autonomous, vertically resolved light measurements within the ice cover during the autumn season. Here we present the first results of this instrument, discuss the advantages and application of the prototype, and provide first new insights into the spatiotemporal aspect of radiative transfer within the sea ice itself. In particular, we investigate how measured attenuation coefficients relate to the optical properties of the ice pack and show that sideward planar irradiance measurements are equivalent to measurements of total scalar irradiance.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.5194/tc-15-183-2021

Cite as
Katlein, C. , Valcic, L. , Lambert Girard, S. and Hoppmann, M. (2021): New insights into radiative transfer within sea ice derived from autonomous optical propagation measurements , The Cryosphere . doi: 10.5194/tc-15-183-2021


Download (7MB) | Preview



Research Platforms


Edit Item Edit Item