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The seasonal cycle of ERS scatterometer signatures over perennial Antarctic sea ice and associated surface ice properties and processes

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Time series of satellite radar backscatter coefficients of the European Remote-sensing Satellite (ERS-1/-2) scatterometer are presented for perennial sea-ice regions in the Antarctic from June 1991 to June 1999. There is a pronounced seasonal cycle, with higher backscatter in summer than in winter. On average, backscatter increases from spring values of −16.3 dB to summer values of −10.7 dB within 96 days. This rapid rise and the summer maximum are occasionally interrupted by sudden strong signal drops. After late summer/early autumn, backscatter decreases again and slowly approaches winter values. The seasonal cycle is interpreted in terms of processes at the ice surface. The spring backscatter rise is associated with internal snowmelt and the formation of superimposed ice. This process commences once the surface energy balance becomes positive. Sudden backscatter drops are caused by temporary meltwater saturation of the snow during episodic events of warm-air advection. In the autumn, when superimposed-ice formation ceases due to surface cooling, gradual surface flooding with sea water becomes the dominant process, causing the observed decreasing backscatter. The reoccurrence of the seasonal backscatter cycle in most regions points to the widespread formation of superimposed ice on perennial Antarctic sea ice.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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