Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
Research article
16 Nov 2016
Research article |  | 16 Nov 2016

Benefits of assimilating thin sea ice thickness from SMOS into the TOPAZ system

Jiping Xie, François Counillon, Laurent Bertino, Xiangshan Tian-Kunze, and Lars Kaleschke

Abstract. An observation product for thin sea ice thickness (SMOS-Ice) is derived from the brightness temperature data of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission. This product is available in near-real time, at daily frequency, during the cold season. In this study, we investigate the benefit of assimilating SMOS-Ice into the TOPAZ coupled ocean and sea ice forecasting system, which is the Arctic component of the Copernicus marine environment monitoring services. The TOPAZ system assimilates sea surface temperature (SST), altimetry data, temperature and salinity profiles, ice concentration, and ice drift with the ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF). The conditions for assimilation of sea ice thickness thinner than 0.4 m are favorable, as observations are reliable below this threshold and their probability distribution is comparable to that of the model. Two parallel Observing System Experiments (OSE) have been performed in March and November 2014, in which the thicknesses from SMOS-Ice (thinner than 0.4 m) are assimilated in addition to the standard observational data sets. It is found that the root mean square difference (RMSD) of thin sea ice thickness is reduced by 11 % in March and 22 % in November compared to the daily thin ice thicknesses of SMOS-Ice, which suggests that SMOS-Ice has a larger impact during the beginning of the cold season. Validation against independent observations of ice thickness from buoys and ice draft from moorings indicates that there are no degradations in the pack ice but there are some improvements near the ice edge close to where the SMOS-Ice has been assimilated. Assimilation of SMOS-Ice yields a slight improvement for ice concentration and degrades neither SST nor sea level anomaly. Analysis of the degrees of freedom for signal (DFS) indicates that the SMOS-Ice has a comparatively small impact but it has a significant contribution in constraining the system (> 20 % of the impact of all ice and ocean observations) near the ice edge. The areas of largest impact are the Kara Sea, Canadian Archipelago, Baffin Bay, Beaufort Sea and Greenland Sea. This study suggests that the SMOS-Ice is a good complementary data set that can be safely included in the TOPAZ system.

Short summary
As a potentially operational daily product, the SMOS-Ice can improve the statements of sea ice thickness and concentration. In this study, focusing on the SMOS-Ice data assimilated into the TOPAZ system, the quantitative evaluation for the impacts and the concerned comparison with the present observation system are valuable to understand the further improvement of the accuracy of operational ocean forecasting system.