Characterization of L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) backscatter from floating and grounded thermokarst lake ice in Arctic Alaska
- 1Water and Environmental Research Center, Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 306 Tanana Loop, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000, USA
- 2Earth & Planetary Remote Sensing, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 903 Koyukuk Dr., Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000, USA
- 3Permafrost Laboratory, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 903 Koyukuk Dr., Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000, USA
Abstract. Radar remote sensing is a well-established method to discriminate lakes retaining liquid-phase water beneath winter ice cover from those that do not. L-band (23.6 cm wavelength) airborne radar showed great promise in the 1970s, but spaceborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) studies have focused on C-band (5.6 cm) SAR to classify lake ice with no further attention to L-band SAR for this purpose. Here, we examined calibrated L-band single- and quadrature-polarized SAR returns from floating and grounded lake ice in two regions of Alaska: the northern Seward Peninsula (NSP) where methane ebullition is common in lakes and the Arctic Coastal Plain (ACP) where ebullition is relatively rare. We found average backscatter intensities of −13 dB and −16 dB for late winter floating ice on the NSP and ACP, respectively, and −19 dB for grounded ice in both regions. Polarimetric analysis revealed that the mechanism of L-band SAR backscatter from floating ice is primarily roughness at the ice–water interface. L-band SAR showed less contrast between floating and grounded lake ice than C-band; however, since L-band is sensitive to ebullition bubbles trapped by lake ice (bubbles increase backscatter), this study helps elucidate potential confounding factors of grounded ice in methane studies using SAR.