Articles | Volume 6, issue 6
The Cryosphere, 6, 1507–1526, 2012
The Cryosphere, 6, 1507–1526, 2012

Research article 14 Dec 2012

Research article | 14 Dec 2012

A method for sea ice thickness and concentration analysis based on SAR data and a thermodynamic model

J. Karvonen1, B. Cheng1, T. Vihma1, M. Arkett2, and T. Carrieres2 J. Karvonen et al.
  • 1Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), Helsinki, PB 503, 00101, Finland
  • 2Canadian Ice Service, 373 Sussex drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3, Canada

Abstract. An analysis of ice thickness distribution is a challenge, particularly in a seasonal sea ice zone with a strongly dynamic ice motion field, such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence off Canada. We present a novel automated method for ice concentration and thickness analysis combining modeling of sea ice thermodynamics and detection of ice motion on the basis of space-borne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data. Thermodynamic evolution of sea ice thickness in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was simulated for two winters, 2002–2003 and 2008–2009. The basin-scale ice thickness was controlled by atmospheric forcing, but the spatial distribution of ice thickness and concentration could not be explained by thermodynamics only. SAR data were applied to detect ice motion and ice surface structure during these two winters. The SAR analysis is based on estimation of ice motion between SAR image pairs and analysis of the local SAR texture statistics. Including SAR data analysis brought a significant added value to the results based on thermodynamics only. Our novel method combining the thermodynamic modeling and SAR yielded results that well match with the distribution of observations based on airborne Electromagnetic Induction (EM) method. Compared to the present operational method of producing ice charts for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is based on visual interpretation of SAR data, the new method reveals much more detailed and physically based information on spatial distribution of ice thickness. The algorithms can be run automatically, and the final products can then be used by ice analysts for operational ice service. The method is globally applicable to all seas where SAR data are available.