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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 6, issue 2
The Cryosphere, 6, 235-254, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-6-235-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
The Cryosphere, 6, 235-254, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-6-235-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 08 Mar 2012

Research article | 08 Mar 2012

Estimating ice phenology on large northern lakes from AMSR-E: algorithm development and application to Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake, Canada

K.-K. Kang1,2, C. R. Duguay1,2, and S. E. L. Howell3 K.-K. Kang et al.
  • 1Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3), University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada
  • 2Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada
  • 3Climate Research Division, Environment Canada, 4905 Dufferin Street, Toronto, Ontario M3H 5T4, Canada

Abstract. Time series of brightness temperatures (TB) from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer–Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) are examined to determine ice phenology variables on the two largest lakes of northern Canada: Great Bear Lake (GBL) and Great Slave Lake (GSL). TB measurements from the 18.7, 23.8, 36.5, and 89.0 GHz channels (H- and V- polarization) are compared to assess their potential for detecting freeze-onset/melt-onset and ice-on/ice-off dates on both lakes. The 18.7 GHz (H-pol) channel is found to be the most suitable for estimating these ice dates as well as the duration of the ice cover and ice-free seasons. A new algorithm is proposed using this channel and applied to map all ice phenology variables on GBL and GSL over seven ice seasons (2002–2009). Analysis of the spatio-temporal patterns of each variable at the pixel level reveals that: (1) both freeze-onset and ice-on dates occur on average about one week earlier on GBL than on GSL (Day of Year (DY) 318 and 333 for GBL; DY 328 and 343 for GSL); (2) the freeze-up process or freeze duration (freeze-onset to ice-on) takes a slightly longer amount of time on GBL than on GSL (about 1 week on average); (3) melt-onset and ice-off dates occur on average one week and approximately four weeks later, respectively, on GBL (DY 143 and 183 for GBL; DY 135 and 157 for GSL); (4) the break-up process or melt duration (melt-onset to ice-off) lasts on average about three weeks longer on GBL; and (5) ice cover duration estimated from each individual pixel is on average about three weeks longer on GBL compared to its more southern counterpart, GSL. A comparison of dates for several ice phenology variables derived from other satellite remote sensing products (e.g. NOAA Interactive Multisensor Snow and Ice Mapping System (IMS), QuikSCAT, and Canadian Ice Service Database) show that, despite its relatively coarse spatial resolution, AMSR-E 18.7 GHz provides a viable means for monitoring of ice phenology on large northern lakes.

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