The impact of snow depth, snow density and ice density on sea ice thickness retrieval from satellite radar altimetry: results from the ESA-CCI Sea Ice ECV Project Round Robin Exercise
Abstract. We assess different methods and input parameters, namely snow depth, snow density and ice density, used in freeboard-to-thickness conversion of Arctic sea ice. This conversion is an important part of sea ice thickness retrieval from spaceborne altimetry. A data base is created comprising sea ice freeboard derived from satellite radar altimetry between 1993 and 2012 and co-locate observations of total (sea ice + snow) and sea ice freeboard from the Operation Ice Bridge (OIB) and CryoSat Validation Experiment (CryoVEx) airborne campaigns, of sea ice draft from moored and submarine upward looking sonar (ULS), and of snow depth from OIB campaigns, Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) and the Warren climatology (Warren et al., 1999). We compare the different data sets in spatiotemporal scales where satellite radar altimetry yields meaningful results. An inter-comparison of the snow depth data sets emphasizes the limited usefulness of Warren climatology snow depth for freeboard-to-thickness conversion under current Arctic Ocean conditions reported in other studies. We test different freeboard-to-thickness and freeboard-to-draft conversion approaches. The mean observed ULS sea ice draft agrees with the mean sea ice draft derived from radar altimetry within the uncertainty bounds of the data sets involved. However, none of the approaches are able to reproduce the seasonal cycle in sea ice draft observed by moored ULS. A sensitivity analysis of the freeboard-to-thickness conversion suggests that sea ice density is as important as snow depth.