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A First Assessment of IceBridge Snow and Ice Thickness Data Over Arctic Sea Ice

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10 Author(s)
Farrell, S.L. ; Earth Syst. Sci. Interdiscipl. Center, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA ; Kurtz, N. ; Connor, L.N. ; Elder, B.C.
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We present a first assessment of airborne laser and radar altimeter data over snow-covered sea ice, gathered during the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Operation IceBridge Mission. We describe a new technique designed to process radar echograms from the University of Kansas snow radar to estimate snow depth. We combine IceBridge laser altimetry with radar-derived snow depths to determine sea ice thickness. Results are validated through comparison with direct measurements of snow and ice thickness collected in situ at the Danish GreenArc 2009 sea ice camp located on fast ice north of Greenland. The IceBridge instrument suite provides accurate measurements of snow and ice thickness, particularly over level ice. Mean IceBridge snow and ice thickness agree with in situ measurements to within ~ 0.01 and ~ 0.05 m, respectively, while modal snow and ice thickness estimates agree to within 0.02 and 0.10 m, respectively. IceBridge snow depths were correlated with in situ measurements (R = 0.7, for an averaging length of 55 m). The uncertainty associated with the derived IceBridge sea ice thickness estimates is 0.40 m. The results demonstrate the retrieval of both first-year and multiyear ice thickness from IceBridge data. The airborne data were however compromised in heavily ridged ice where snow depth, and hence ice thickness, could not be measured. Techniques developed as part of this study will be used for routine processing of IceBridge retrievals over Arctic sea ice. The limitations of the GreenArc study are discussed, and recommendations for future validation of airborne measurements via field activities are provided.

Published in:

Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:50 ,  Issue: 6 )