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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-196
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-196
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  10 Aug 2020

10 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Simulated Ka- and Ku-band radar altimeter scattering horizon on snow-covered Arctic sea ice

Rasmus T. Tonboe1, Vishnu Nandan2,3, John Yackel3, Stefan Kern4, Leif Toudal Pedersen5, and Julienne Stroeve2 Rasmus T. Tonboe et al.
  • 1Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS), University of Manitoba, Canada
  • 3Cryosphere Climate Research Group, University of Calgary, Canada
  • 4University of Hamburg, Germany
  • 5Technical University of Denmark, Denmark

Abstract. Owing to differing and complex snow geophysical properties, radar waves of different wavelengths undergo variable penetration through snow-covered sea ice. However, the mechanisms influencing radar altimeter backscatter from snow-covered sea ice, especially at Ka- and Ku-band frequencies, and its impact on the Ka- and Ku-band radar scattering horizon or the "track point" (i.e. the scattering layer depth detected by the radar re-tracker), are not well understood. In this study, we evaluate the Ka- and Ku-band radar scattering horizon with respect to radar penetration and ice floe buoyancy using a first-order scattering model and Archimedes’ principle. The scattering model is forced with snow depth data from the European Space Agency (ESA) climate change initiative (CCI) round robin data package, NASA’s Operation Ice Bridge (OIB) data and climatology, and detailed snow geophysical property profiles from the Canadian Arctic. Our simulations demonstrate that the Ka- and Ku-band track point difference is a function of snow depth, however, the simulated track point difference is much smaller than what is reported in the literature from the CryoSat-2 Ku-band and SARAL/AltiKa Ka-band satellite radar altimeter observations. We argue that this discrepancy in the Ka- and Ku-band track point differences are sensitive to ice type and snow depth and its associated geophysical properties. Snow salinity is first increasing the Ka- and Ku-band track-point difference when the snow is thin and then decreasing the difference when the snow is thick (> 10 cm). A relationship between the Ku-band radar scattering horizon and snow depth is found. This relationship has implications for 1) the use of snow climatology in the conversion of radar freeboard into sea ice thickness and 2) the impact of variability in measured snow depth on the derived ice thickness. For both 1 and 2, the impact of using a snow climatology versus the actual snow depth is relatively small on the measured freeboard, by only raising the measured freeboard by 0.03 times the climatological snow depth plus 0.03 times the real snow depth. This study serves to enhance our understanding of microwave interactions towards improved accuracy of snow depth and sea ice thickness retrievals from combining currently operational and upcoming Ka- and Ku-band dual-frequency radar altimeter missions, such as ESA’s Copernicus High Priority Candidate Mission CRISTAL.

Rasmus T. Tonboe et al.

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Rasmus T. Tonboe et al.

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Short summary
A relationship between the Ku-band radar scattering horizon and snow depth is found using a radar scattering model. This relationship has implications for 1) the use of snow climatology in the conversion of satellite radar freeboard into sea ice thickness and 2) the impact of variability in measured snow depth on the derived ice thickness. For both 1 and 2, the impact of using a snow climatology versus the actual snow depth is relatively small.
A relationship between the Ku-band radar scattering horizon and snow depth is found using a...
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