The Cryosphere Discuss., 4, 641-661, 2010
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in TC.
The relation between sea ice thickness and freeboard in the Arctic
V. Alexandrov1,2, S. Sandven2,3, J. Wahlin2, and O. M. Johannessen2
1Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NIERSC), 14th Line of Vasilevsky Island, 7, office 49, 199034, St. Petersburg, Russia
2Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC), Thormoehlensgate 47, 5006, Bergen, Norway
3Department of Arctic Geophysics, University of Svalbard (UNIS), 9171, Longyearbyen, Norway

Abstract. Retrieval of Arctic sea ice thickness from radar altimeter freeboard data, to be provided by CryoSat-2, requires observational data to verify the relation between the two variables. In this study in-situ ice and snow data from 689 observation sites obtained during the Sever expeditions in the 1980s have been used to establish an empirical relation between ice thickness and freeboard. Estimates of mean and variability of snow depth, snow density and ice density were produced based on many field observations, and have been used in the isostatic equilibrium equation to estimate ice thickness as a function of ice freeboard, snow depth and snow/ice density. The accuracy of the ice thickness retrieval has been calculated from the estimated variability in ice and snow parameters and error of ice freeboard measurements. It is found that uncertainties of ice density and freeboard are the major sources of error in ice thickness calculation. For FY ice, retrieval of ≈1.0 m (2.0 m) thickness has an uncertainty of 60% (41%). For MY ice the main uncertainty is ice density error, since the freeboard error is relatively smaller than for FY ice. Retrieval of 2.4 m (3.0 m) thick MY ice has an error of 24% (21%). The freeboard error is ±0.05 m for both the FY and MY ice. If the freeboard error can be reduced to 0.01 m by averaging a large number of measurements from CryoSat, the error in thickness retrieval is reduced to about 32% for a 1.0 m thick FY floe and to about 18% for a 2.3 m thick MY floe. The remaining error is dominated by uncertainty in ice density. Provision of improved ice density data is therefore important for accurate retrieval of ice thickness from CryoSat data.

Citation: Alexandrov, V., Sandven, S., Wahlin, J., and Johannessen, O. M.: The relation between sea ice thickness and freeboard in the Arctic, The Cryosphere Discuss., 4, 641-661, doi:10.5194/tcd-4-641-2010, 2010.
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