Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
Research article
25 Nov 2014
Research article |  | 25 Nov 2014

First-year sea ice melt pond fraction estimation from dual-polarisation C-band SAR – Part 2: Scaling in situ to Radarsat-2

R. K. Scharien, K. Hochheim, J. Landy, and D. G. Barber

Abstract. Sea ice melt pond fraction (fp), linked with lower sea ice surface albedo and increased light transmittance to the ocean, is inadequately parameterised in sea ice models due to a lack of observations. In this paper, results from a multi-scale remote-sensing program dedicated to the retrieval of level first-year sea ice (FYI) fp from dual co- and cross-polarisation C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) backscatter are detailed. Models which utilise the dominant effect of free-water melt ponds on the VV / HH (vertical transmit and vertical receive / horizontal transmit and horizontal receive) polarisation ratio at high incidence angles are tested for their ability to provide estimates of the subscale fp. Retrieved fp from noise-corrected Radarsat-2 quad-polarisation scenes are in good agreement with observations from coincident aerial survey data, with root mean square errors (RMSEs) of 0.05–0.07 obtained during intermediate and late stages of ponding. Weak model performance is attributed to the presence of wet snow and slush during initial ponding, and a synoptically driven freezing event causing ice lids to form on ponds. The HV / HH (horizontal transmit and vertical receive / horizontal transmit and horizontal receive) ratio explains a greater portion of variability in fp, compared to VV / HH, when ice lids are present. Generally low HV channel intensity suggests limited applications using dual cross-polarisation data, except with systems that have exceptionally low noise floors. Results demonstrate the overall potential of dual-polarisation SAR for standalone or complementary observations of fp for process-scale studies and improvements to model parameterisations.