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Ultrawideband Radar Measurements of Thickness of Snow Over Sea Ice

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7 Author(s)
Kanagaratnam, P. ; Benaforce Sdn. Bhd., Shah Alam ; Markus, T. ; Lytle, V.. ; Heavey, B.
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An accurate knowledge of snow thickness and its variability over sea ice is crucial in determining the overall polar heat and freshwater budget, which influences the global climate. Recently, algorithms have been developed to extract snow thicknesses from satellite passive microwave data. However, validation of these data over the large footprint of the passive microwave sensor has been a challenge. The only method used thus far has been with meter sticks during ship cruises. To address this problem, we developed an ultrawideband frequency-modulated continuous-wave radar to measure the snow thickness over sea ice. We synthesized a very linear chirp signal by using a phase-locked loop with a digitally generated chirp signal as a reference to obtain a fine-range resolution. The radar operates over the frequency range from 2-8 GHz. We made snow-thickness measurements over the Antarctic sea ice by operating the radar from a sled in September and October 2003. We performed radar measurements over 11 stations with varying snow thicknesses between 4 and 85 cm. We observed an excellent agreement between radar estimates of snow thickness with physical measurements, achieving a correlation coefficient of 0.95 and a vertical resolution of about 3 cm. Comparison of simulated radar waveforms using a simple transmission line model with the measurements confirms our expectations that echoes from snow-covered sea ice are dominated by reflections from air-snow and snow-ice interfaces.

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Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:45 ,  Issue: 9 )