Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Research article
13 Aug 2018
Research article |  | 13 Aug 2018

Arctic Mission Benefit Analysis: impact of sea ice thickness, freeboard, and snow depth products on sea ice forecast performance

Thomas Kaminski, Frank Kauker, Leif Toudal Pedersen, Michael Voßbeck, Helmuth Haak, Laura Niederdrenk, Stefan Hendricks, Robert Ricker, Michael Karcher, Hajo Eicken, and Ola Gråbak

Abstract. Assimilation of remote-sensing products of sea ice thickness (SIT) into sea ice–ocean models has been shown to improve the quality of sea ice forecasts. Key open questions are whether assimilation of lower-level data products such as radar freeboard (RFB) can further improve model performance and what performance gains can be achieved through joint assimilation of these data products in combination with a snow depth product. The Arctic Mission Benefit Analysis system was developed to address this type of question. Using the quantitative network design (QND) approach, the system can evaluate, in a mathematically rigorous fashion, the observational constraints imposed by individual and groups of data products. We demonstrate the approach by presenting assessments of the observation impact (added value) of different Earth observation (EO) products in terms of the uncertainty reduction in a 4-week forecast of sea ice volume (SIV) and snow volume (SNV) for three regions along the Northern Sea Route in May 2015 using a coupled model of the sea ice–ocean system, specifically the Max Planck Institute Ocean Model. We assess seven satellite products: three real products and four hypothetical products. The real products are monthly SIT, sea ice freeboard (SIFB), and RFB, all derived from CryoSat-2 by the Alfred Wegener Institute. These are complemented by two hypothetical monthly laser freeboard (LFB) products with low and high accuracy, as well as two hypothetical monthly snow depth products with low and high accuracy.

On the basis of the per-pixel uncertainty ranges provided with the CryoSat-2 SIT, SIFB, and RFB products, the SIT and RFB achieve a much better performance for SIV than the SIFB product. For SNV, the performance of SIT is only low, the performance of SIFB is higher and the performance of RFB is yet higher. A hypothetical LFB product with low accuracy (20 cm uncertainty) falls between SIFB and RFB in performance for both SIV and SNV. A reduction in the uncertainty of the LFB product to 2 cm yields a significant increase in performance.

Combining either of the SIT or freeboard products with a hypothetical snow depth product achieves a significant performance increase. The uncertainty in the snow product matters: a higher-accuracy product achieves an extra performance gain. Providing spatial and temporal uncertainty correlations with the EO products would be beneficial not only for QND assessments, but also for assimilation of the products.

Short summary
We present mathematically rigorous assessments of the observation impact (added value) of remote-sensing products and in terms of the uncertainty reduction in a 4-week forecast of sea ice volume and snow volume for three regions along the Northern Sea Route by a coupled model of the sea-ice–ocean system. We quantify the difference in impact between rawer (freeboard) and higher-level (sea ice thickness) products, and the impact of adding a snow depth product.