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Field Investigations of Ku-Band Radar Penetration Into Snow Cover on Antarctic Sea Ice

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5 Author(s)
Willatt, R.C. ; Centre for Polar Obs. & Modelling, Univ. Coll. London, London, UK ; Giles, K.A. ; Laxon, S.W. ; Stone-Drake, L.
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Monitoring long-term, large-scale changes in the Antarctic sea ice thickness is not currently possible due to the sampling constraints of the ship-based and airborne observations which comprise most of the available thickness data. Satellite radar altimetry has been used to measure sea ice thickness variability in the Arctic where it is assumed that the highest amplitude radar return originates from the snow/ice interface as the Arctic snow is cold and dry; however, this may not be the case in the Antarctic due to more complex snow stratigraphy caused by warmer winter temperatures and frequent snow flooding. We present the first measurements of radar penetration into snow cover on Antarctic sea ice in the Ku-band at which satellite radar altimeters operate. Data were taken using a sled-borne radar on sea ice off East Antarctica during September and October 2007. Radar data and field measurements of snow density, thickness, wetness, and layers were taken over a range of locations including snow packs with flooding, hard crusts, and icy layers. Detailed snow pit studies showed that the snow/ice interface was the dominant scattering surface only for snow without morphological features or flooding. Analysis of transect data showed that the mean depth of the dominant scattering surface of the radar was only around 50% of the mean measured snow depth, indicating that the dominant scattering surface was not always the snow/ice interface for the Antarctic sea ice surveyed.

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Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:48 ,  Issue: 1 )