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A radiative transfer model is used to simulate the sea ice radar altimeter effective scattering surface variability as a function of snow depth and density. Under dry snow conditions without layering these are the primary snow parameters affecting the scattering surface variability. The model is initialized with in situ data collected during the May 2004 GreenIce ice camp in the Lincoln Sea (73°W; 85°N). Our results show that the snow cover is important for the effective scattering surface depth in sea ice and thus for the range measurement, ice freeboard, and ice thickness estimation.