Skip to Main Content
Airborne C- and L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images were acquired for three test sites over different sea ice regimes around Svalbard in March 2007, complemented by optical imagery, environmental data, and ice observations. One objective was to use the high-resolution low-noise radar data for investigations on the technical performance of European Space Agency's Sentinel-1 mission for sea ice mapping, the other to assess the potential gain of additional use of L-band SAR data currently available from Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS). The airborne SAR images were employed to simulate data products resembling the interferometric wide-swath mode (IWSM) of Sentinel-1 and ALOS PALSAR fine resolution mode (FRM) in order to quantify the information loss due to the higher noise level and coarser spatial resolution. At the IWSM noise level, zones of deformation, level ice, and new ice can be well separated at like-polarization. At cross-polarization, the noise level is too high for a robust automated classification including thin ice, but deformed and level ice can be discriminated. PALSAR FRM is on average better suited to distinguish deformed and level ice over all ice regimes. It was worse for separating new from thicker level ice at two test sites. For the third test site with very few patches of new ice, the PALSAR FRM showed larger intensity contrasts between new and level ice than Sentinel-1 IWSM. The spatial resolution provided by the IWSM and FRM is sufficient to identify most ice features and types without ambiguities. Typical characteristics of the imaged ice regimes are described.