Lead fractions from SAR-derived sea ice divergence during MOSAiC
Abstract. Leads and fractures in sea ice play a crucial role in the heat and gas exchange between the ocean and atmosphere, impacting atmospheric, ecological, and oceanic processes. Our aim was to estimate lead fractions from high-resolution divergence obtained from satellite synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) data and to evaluate it against existing lead products. We derived two new lead-fraction products from divergence with a spatial resolution of 700 m calculated from daily Sentinel-1 images. For the first lead product, we advected and accumulated the lead fractions of individual time steps. With those accumulated divergence-derived lead fractions, we described comprehensively the presence of up to 10-day-old leads and analyzed their deformation history. For the second lead product, we used only divergence pixels that were identified as part of linear kinematic features (LKFs). Both new lead products accurately captured the formation of new leads with widths of a few hundred meters. We presented a Lagrangian time series of the divergence-based lead fractions along the drift of the MOSAiC expedition in the central Arctic Ocean during winter 2019/2020. Lead activity was high in fall and spring, consistent with wind forcing and ice pack consolidation. At larger scales of 50–150 km around the MOSAiC expedition, lead activity on all scales was similar, but differences emerged at smaller scales (10 km). We compared our lead products with 6 others from satellite and airborne sources, including classified SAR, thermal infrared, microwave radiometer, and altimeter data. We found that the mean lead fractions varied by 1 magnitude across different lead products due to different physical lead and sea ice properties observed by the sensors and methodological factors such as spatial resolution. Thus, the choice of lead product should align with the specific application.
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