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Melt pond statistics (size and shape) have previously been retrieved from aerial photography and high-resolution visible satellite data. These submeter- or meter-resolution visible data can provide reasonably accurate information on melt ponds, but are greatly constrained by the limited solar illumination and frequent cloud cover in the Arctic region. In this study, we venture into exploring high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) or imaging radar method for melt pond mapping, which is not severely disrupted by cloud or low solar zenith angle. We analyzed high-resolution airborne SAR images (0.3-m resolution) of midsummer sea ice, acquired from a helicopter-borne SAR system in the northern Chukchi Sea. The pond area and shape (circularity) derived from the airborne SAR images showed that the statistics were comparable to those previously observed from aerial photographs. We argue that high-resolution SAR, together with one-to-one comparison with coincident aerial photographs, can be used to map melt ponds at a level of detail comparable to aerial photography or high-resolution optical satellite remote sensing. Our encouraging results suggest the possibility of using high-resolution SAR (current or future systems) to map melt ponds in the Arctic region.
Date of Publication: March 2013