Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
The Cryosphere, 9, 2149–2161, 2015
The Cryosphere, 9, 2149–2161, 2015

Research article 18 Nov 2015

Research article | 18 Nov 2015

Comparison of a coupled snow thermodynamic and radiative transfer model with in situ active microwave signatures of snow-covered smooth first-year sea ice

M. C. Fuller, T. Geldsetzer, J. Yackel, and J. P. S. Gill M. C. Fuller et al.
  • Cryosphere Climate Research Group, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Abstract. Within the context of developing data inversion and assimilation techniques for C-band backscatter over sea ice, snow physical models may be used to drive backscatter models for comparison and optimization with satellite observations. Such modeling has the potential to enhance understanding of snow on sea-ice properties required for unambiguous interpretation of active microwave imagery. An end-to-end modeling suite is introduced, incorporating regional reanalysis data (NARR), a snow model (SNTHERM89.rev4), and a multilayer snow and ice active microwave backscatter model (MSIB). This modeling suite is assessed against measured snow on sea-ice geophysical properties and against measured active microwave backscatter. NARR data were input to the SNTHERM snow thermodynamic model in order to drive the MSIB model for comparison to detailed geophysical measurements and surface-based observations of C-band backscatter of snow on first-year sea ice. The NARR variables were correlated to available in situ measurements with the exception of long-wave incoming radiation and relative humidity, which impacted SNTHERM simulations of snow temperature. SNTHERM snow grain size and density were comparable to observations. The first assessment of the forward assimilation technique developed in this work required the application of in situ salinity profiles to one SNTHERM snow profile, which resulted in simulated backscatter close to that driven by in situ snow properties. In other test cases, the simulated backscatter remained 4–6 dB below observed for higher incidence angles and when compared to an average simulated backscatter of in situ end-member snow covers. Development of C-band inversion and assimilation schemes employing SNTHERM89.rev4 should consider sensitivity of the model to bias in incoming long-wave radiation, the effects of brine, and the inability of SNTHERM89.Rev4 to simulate water accumulation and refreezing at the bottom and mid-layers of the snowpack. These impact thermodynamic response, brine wicking and volume processes, snow dielectrics, and thus microwave backscatter from snow on first-year sea ice.

Short summary
We modeled snow (based on weather variables) to simulate microwave response. The simulated snowpack, and the simulated microwave backscatter response, was compared to observed physical snow and ice properties and the observed microwave response. There was better agreement between the simulated and observed microwave signatures when we applied observed salinity profiles to the simulated snow pack. Without correction for observed salinity, there was less agreement.