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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 11, issue 6 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 11, 2571-2593, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-11-2571-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 13 Nov 2017

Research article | 13 Nov 2017

Intercomparison of snow depth retrievals over Arctic sea ice from radar data acquired by Operation IceBridge

Ron Kwok1, Nathan T. Kurtz2, Ludovic Brucker2,3, Alvaro Ivanoff4, Thomas Newman5, Sinead L. Farrell6,7, Joshua King8, Stephen Howell8, Melinda A. Webster2, John Paden9, Carl Leuschen9, Joseph A. MacGregor2, Jacqueline Richter-Menge10, Jeremy Harbeck4, and Mark Tschudi11 Ron Kwok et al.
  • 1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
  • 2Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
  • 3Universities Space Research Association, Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research Studies and Investigations, Columbia, MD, USA
  • 4ADNET Systems Inc., Lanham, MD, USA
  • 5Department of Atmospheric Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 6Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
  • 7Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry, Satellite Oceanography and Climatology Division, NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, College Park, Maryland, USA
  • 8Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 9Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA
  • 10Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
  • 11Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Abstract. Since 2009, the ultra-wideband snow radar on Operation IceBridge (OIB; a NASA airborne mission to survey the polar ice covers) has acquired data in annual campaigns conducted during the Arctic and Antarctic springs. Progressive improvements in radar hardware and data processing methodologies have led to improved data quality for subsequent retrieval of snow depth. Existing retrieval algorithms differ in the way the air–snow (a–s) and snow–ice (s–i) interfaces are detected and localized in the radar returns and in how the system limitations are addressed (e.g., noise, resolution). In 2014, the Snow Thickness On Sea Ice Working Group (STOSIWG) was formed and tasked with investigating how radar data quality affects snow depth retrievals and how retrievals from the various algorithms differ. The goal is to understand the limitations of the estimates and to produce a well-documented, long-term record that can be used for understanding broader changes in the Arctic climate system. Here, we assess five retrieval algorithms by comparisons with field measurements from two ground-based campaigns, including the BRomine, Ozone, and Mercury EXperiment (BROMEX) at Barrow, Alaska; a field program by Environment and Climate Change Canada at Eureka, Nunavut; and available climatology and snowfall from ERA-Interim reanalysis. The aim is to examine available algorithms and to use the assessment results to inform the development of future approaches. We present results from these assessments and highlight key considerations for the production of a long-term, calibrated geophysical record of springtime snow thickness over Arctic sea ice.

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Since 2009, the ultra-wideband snow radar on Operation IceBridge has acquired data in annual campaigns conducted during the Arctic and Antarctic springs. Existing snow depth retrieval algorithms differ in the way the air–snow and snow–ice interfaces are detected and localized in the radar returns and in how the system limitations are addressed. Here, we assess five retrieval algorithms by comparisons with field measurements, ground-based campaigns, and analyzed fields of snow depth.
Since 2009, the ultra-wideband snow radar on Operation IceBridge has acquired data in annual...
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