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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 4, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 4, 583–592, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
The Cryosphere, 4, 583–592, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 13 Dec 2010

Research article | 13 Dec 2010

A sea-ice thickness retrieval model for 1.4 GHz radiometry and application to airborne measurements over low salinity sea-ice

L. Kaleschke1, N. Maaß1, C. Haas2, S. Hendricks3, G. Heygster4, and R. T. Tonboe5 L. Kaleschke et al.
  • 1Institute of Oceanography, University of Hamburg, Bundesstraße 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada
  • 3Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bussestr. 24, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 4Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, P.O. Box 330440, Germany
  • 5Center for Ocean & Ice, Danish Meteorological Institute, Lyngbyvej 100, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract. In preparation for the European Space Agency's (ESA) Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission, we investigated the potential of L-band (1.4 GHz) radiometry to measure sea-ice thickness.

Sea-ice brightness temperature was measured at 1.4 GHz and ice thickness was measured along nearly coincident flight tracks during the SMOS Sea-Ice campaign in the Bay of Bothnia in March 2007. A research aircraft was equipped with the L-band Radiometer EMIRAD and coordinated with helicopter based electromagnetic induction (EM) ice thickness measurements.

We developed a three layer (ocean-ice-atmosphere) dielectric slab model for the calculation of ice thickness from brightness temperature. The dielectric properties depend on the relative brine volume which is a function of the bulk ice salinity and temperature.

The model calculations suggest a thickness sensitivity of up to 1.5 m for low-salinity (multi-year or brackish) sea-ice. For Arctic first year ice the modelled thickness sensitivity is less than half a meter. It reduces to a few centimeters for temperatures approaching the melting point.

The campaign was conducted under unfavorable melting conditions and the spatial overlap between the L-band and EM-measurements was relatively small. Despite these disadvantageous conditions we demonstrate the possibility to measure the sea-ice thickness with the certain limitation up to 1.5 m.

The ice thickness derived from SMOS measurements would be complementary to ESA's CryoSat-2 mission in terms of the error characteristics and the spatiotemporal coverage. The relative error for the SMOS ice thickness retrieval is expected to be not less than about 20%.

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