Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-227
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-227

  03 Aug 2021

03 Aug 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

A comparison between Envisat and ICESat sea ice thickness in the Antarctic

Jinfei Wang1, Chao Min1, Robert Ricker2, Qian Shi1, Bo Han1, Stefan Hendricks2, Renhao Wu1, and Qinghua Yang1 Jinfei Wang et al.
  • 1School of Atmospheric Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, and Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai 519082, China
  • 2Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven 27570, Germany

Abstract. The crucial role that Antarctic sea ice plays in the global climate system is strongly linked to its thickness. While field observations are too sparse in the Antarctic to determine long-term trends of the Antarctic sea ice thickness (SIT) on a hemispheric scale, satellite radar altimetry data can be applied with a promising prospect. European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative – Sea Ice Project (ESA SICCI) includes sea ice freeboard and sea ice thickness derived from Envisat, covering the entire Antarctic year-round from 2002 to 2012. In this study, the SICCI Envisat SIT in the Antarctic is first compared with a conceptually new ICESat SIT product retrieved from an algorithm employing modified ice density. Both data sets are compared to SIT estimates from upward-looking sonar (ULS) in the Weddell Sea, showing mean differences (MD) and standard deviations (SD) of 1.29 (0.65) m for Envisat-ULS, while we find 1.11 (0.81) m for ICESat-ULS, respectively. The inter-comparisons are conducted for three seasons except winter, based on the ICESat operating periods. According to the results, the differences between Envisat and ICESat SIT reveal significant temporal and spatial variations. More specifically, the smallest seasonal SIT MD (with SD shown in brackets) of 0.00 m (0.39 m) for Envisat-ICESat for the entire Antarctic is found in spring (October–November) while larger MD of 0.52 m (0.68 m) and 0.57 m (0.45 m) exist in summer (February–March) and autumn (May–June), respectively. It is also shown that from autumn to spring, mean Envisat SIT decreases while mean ICESat SIT increases. Our findings suggest that overestimation of Envisat sea ice freeboard, potentially caused by radar backscatter originating from inside the snow layer, primarily accounts for the differences between Envisat and ICESat SIT in summer and autumn, while the uncertainties of snow depth product are not the dominant cause of the differences.To get a better understanding of the characteristics of the Envisat-derived sea ice thickness product, we firstly conduct a comprehensive comparison between Envisat and ICESat-1 sea ice thickness. Their differences reveal significant temporal and spatial variations. Our findings suggest that overestimation of Envisat sea ice freeboard primarily accounts for the differences in summer and autumn, while the uncertainties of snow depth product are not the dominant cause of the differences. 

Jinfei Wang et al.

Status: open (until 15 Oct 2021)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-227', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Aug 2021 reply

Jinfei Wang et al.

Jinfei Wang et al.

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Short summary
The differences between Envisat and ICESat-1 sea ice thickness reveal significant temporal and spatial variations. Our findings suggest that overestimation of Envisat sea ice freeboard primarily accounts for the differences in summer and autumn, while the uncertainties of snow depth product are not the dominant cause of the differences.