Related Research Areas
Climate Variability & Change, Earth Surface & Interior

The objective of this effort is to improve the understanding of the sea ice thickness distribution of both polar regions through the comparison of airborne measurements of snow depth and ice elevation with satellite observations from ICESat and Cryosat-2, with a particular focus on the thicker or deformed sea ice cover. The sea ice cover in the Arctic is undergoing significant reductions in thickness and extent, with unknown changes occurring in deformation of the thinning ice cover. In the Southern Ocean, the sea ice may actually be increasing in extent. Differences exist between the two ice covers, with the Arctic generally having thicker ice, less snow, and higher and more massive ridges than in the Southern Ocean. Ridged ice may account for up to 40% or more of the ice mass balance. Yet ridged ice and its commonly associated deeper snow accumulations are difficult to detect with satellite laser and radar altimeters due to sensor resolution as well as the signal detection methodology and thus remain largely unaccounted for in sea ice thickness retrievals. Reasonable questions to ask are how do ICESat and Cryosat-2 detect the differences in snow loading, ice elevation, and surface morphology in both polar regions and what are the resulting differences in derivations of sea ice thickness? We propose to obtain fine-resolution observations of the snow-ice surface elevation, snow depth, and top ice surface elevation with an integrated airborne instrument package over Arctic and Southern Ocean sea ice. The airborne instruments include a pulse-compression Lidar, a snow thickness radar (2.5-7 GHz), and a Ku-band radar altimeter. This configuration emulates ICESat’s laser and Cryosat-2’s radar altimeters with the additional independent measurement of snow thickness, a critical component needed for derivation and validation of sea ice thickness from elevation measurements. The instruments will be integrated into a Twin-Otter aircraft for deployment. The planned Arctic collections are to take place in the Lincoln Sea from a base in Thule in fall 2010 while the Antarctic collection is expected to be in the Ross Sea, based at McMurdo, during austral spring 2011. The data collections will attempt to closely coordinate with both satellite sensors operations and tracks to maximize overlapping sampling. We will also endeavor to coordinate flights over planned sea ice camps and other ancillary thickness observations from moorings and drift buoys. A collaborative proposal will be submitted to NSF to support the related aircraft deployment of these instruments for ice sheet studies in Greenland and Antarctic, to support the U. Kansas-led CReSIS program. In addition to satellite analysis, this proposal includes costs for additional aircraft flight hours to obtain data over sea ice and its associated processing and analysis. The unique, fine-resolution airborne collections will provide a validation quality data set to evaluate both satellite sensors’ methodologies to detect sea ice elevation and the respective derivations of freeboard and sea ice thickness. The airborne data will enable us to evaluate the impact of varying sea ice thickness, snow cover, ridging density and morphology on thickness estimates, and how these derivations might be improved. Also, we can assess the possibility of using concurrent observations from both altimeters to derive snow thickness. Taken together, we can take valuable steps toward determining the sea ice and snow thickness distribution of both the Arctic and Southern Ocean and how they are changing due to climate change and global warming. This work is proposed to be conducted as Fundamental Research.

Project PI: Benjamin Holt/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Jet Propulsion Laboratory M/S 300-323 4800 Oak Grove Drive Pasadena, CA 91109

Phone: (818) 354-5473

Fax: (818) 393-6720



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Started: Sep 27, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 04, 2011


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