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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-220
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-220
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 14 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 14 Oct 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Variability Scaling and Consistency of Airborne and Satellite Altimetry Measurements of Arctic Sea Ice

Shiming Xu1,2, Lu Zhou1, and Bin Wang1,3 Shiming Xu et al.
  • 1Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
  • 2University Corporation for Polar Research, Beijing, China
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (LASG), Instituteof Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Abstract. Satellite and airborne remote sensing provide complementary capabilities for the observation of the sea ice cover. However, due to the differences in footprint sizes and noise levels of the measurement techniques, as well as sea ice's variability across scales, it is challenging to carry out inter-comparison or consistency study of these observations. In this study we focus on the remote sensing of sea ice thickness parameters, and carry out: (1) the analysis of variability and its statistical scaling for typical parameters, and (2) the consistency study between airborne and satellite measurements. By using collocating data between Operation IceBridge and CryoSat-2 in the Arctic, we show that there exists consistency between the variability of radar freeboard estimations, although CryoSat-2 has higher noise levels. Specifically, we notice that the noise levels vary among different CryoSat-2 products, and for ESA CryoSat-2 freeboard product the noise levels are at about 14 and 20 cm for first-year and multiyear ice, respectively. On the other hand, for Operation IceBridge and ICESat, it is shown that the variability of snow (or total) freeboard is quantitatively comparable, despite over 5 years' the time difference between the two datasets. Furthermore, by using Operation IceBridge data, we also find wide-spread negative covariance between ice freeboard and snow depth, which only manifest at small spatial scales (40 m for first-year ice and about 80 to 120 m for MYI). This statistical relationship highlights that the snow cover reduces the overall topography of the ice cover. Besides, there is prevalent positive covariability between snow depth and snow freeboard across a wide range of spatial scales. The variability and consistency analysis calls for more process-oriented observations and modeling activities to elucidate key processes governing snow-ice interaction and sea ice variability on various spatial scales. The statistical results can also be utilized in improving both radar and laser altimetry, as well as the validation of sea ice and snow prognostic models.

Shiming Xu et al.
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Short summary
Sea ice thickness parameters are key to polar climate change studies and forecast. Airborne and satellite provide complementary observational capabilities. This study carries out variability of freeboard and snow depth measurements and the scaling of variability, including Operation IceBridge, CryoVEx, CryoSat-2, ICESat. Consistency between airborne and satellite data are also checked. Analysis calls for process-oriented attribution of variability and covariability features of these parameters.
Sea ice thickness parameters are key to polar climate change studies and forecast. Airborne and...
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