Evaluating Airborne Ku-Band Radar Altimetry over Landfast First-Year Sea Ice
Abstract. Recent studies have challenged the assumption that Ku-band radar used by the CryoSat-2 altimeter fully penetrates the dry snow cover of Arctic sea ice. There is also uncertainty around the proper technique for handling retracker threshold selection in the Threshold First-Maxima Retracker (TFMRA) method which estimates the ice surface elevation from the radar echo waveform. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the accuracy and penetration of the TFMRA retracking method applied to the Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar and Interferometric Radar Altimeter System (ASIRAS), an airborne simulator of the CryoSat-2, to investigate the effect of surface characteristics and improve accuracy.
The ice surface elevation estimate from ASIRAS was evaluated by comparing to the snow surface measured by aggregating laser altimetry observations from the Airborne Laser Scanner (ALS), and the ice surface measured by subtracting ground observations of snow depth from the snow surface. The perceived penetration of the ice surface estimate was found to increase with the retracker threshold and was correlated with the value of surface properties. The slope of the relationship between penetration and threshold was greater for a deformed ice surface, a rough snow surface, a deeper snow cover, an absence of salinity and a larger snow grain size. As a result, the ideal retracked threshold, one that would achieve 100 % penetration, varies depending on properties of the surface being observed. Under conditions such deep snow or a large grain size, the retracked elevation sr was found in some cases to not penetrate fully the snowpack. This would cause an overestimation of the sea ice freeboard and as a consequence, the sea ice thickness.
Results suggest that using a single threshold with the TFMRA retracking method will not yield a reliable estimate of the snow-ice interface when observed over an area with diverse surface properties. However, there may be potential to improve the retracking method by incorporating knowledge of the sensed surface physical characteristics. This study shows that remotely sensed surface properties, such as the ice deformity or snow surface roughness, can be combined with the waveform shape to select an ideal retracker for individual returns with an additional offset to account for the incomplete penetration of Ku-band over appropriate surface characteristics.
This preprint has been withdrawn.
CryoVEx ASIRAS Campaign 2014 https://doi.org/10.5270/esa-aa4xtkn
Model code and software
CryoVEx-Eureka Analysis Supplement https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4243559
Viewed (geographical distribution)