Skip to Main Content
An accurate representation of sea ice concentration is valuable to operational ice analyses, process studies, model inputs, and detection of long-term climate change. Passive microwave imagery, such as from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I), are particularly valuable for monitoring of sea ice conditions because of their daily, basin-scale coverage under all sky conditions. SSM/I-derived sea ice concentration estimates using four common algorithms [Bootstrap (BT), Cal/Val (CV), NASA Team (NT), and NASA Team 2 (N2)] are compared with concentrations computed from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) visible and infrared imagery. Comparisons are made over approximately an eight-month period in three regions of the Arctic and focus on areas near the ice edge where differences between the algorithms are likely to be most apparent. The results indicate that CV and N2 have the smallest mean error relative to AVHRR. CV tends to overestimate concentration, while the other three algorithms underestimate concentration. NT has the largest underestimation of nearly 10% on average and much higher in some instances. In most cases, mean errors of the SSM/I algorithm were significantly different from each other at the 95% significance level. The BT algorithm has the lowest error standard deviation, but none of the considered algorithms was found to have statistically significantly different error standard deviations in most cases. This indicates that spatial resolution is likely a limiting factor of SSM/I in regions near the ice edge in that none of the algorithms satisfactorily resolve mixed pixels. Statistical breakdowns by season, region, ice conditions, and AVHRR scene generally agree with the overall results. Representative case studies are presented to illustrate the statistical results.