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The onset of Arctic sea-ice snowmelt as detected with passive- and active-microwave remote sensing

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Daily acquisitions from satellite microwave sensors can be used to observe the spatial and temporal characteristics of the Arctic sea-ice snowmelt onset because the initial presence of liquid water in a dry snow pack causes a dramatic change in the active- and passive-microwave response. A daily sequence of backscatter coefficient images from the NASA scatterometer (NSCAT) clearly shows the spatially continuous progression of decreasing backscatter associated with snowmelt onset across the Arctic Ocean during spring 1997. A time series of the active NSCAT backscatter and a scattering index from the passive Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) show similar trends during the time of the melt onset. An NSCAT snowmelt-onset detection algorithm is developed using the derivative of the backscatter with respect to time to select a melt-onset date for each pixel, generating a melt map for the Arctic sea ice. Comparison between this melt map and one previously generated from an SSM/I scattering index shows the NSCAT algorithm predicts the onset occurs 1–10 days earlier than the SSM/I-based algorithm for most portions of multi-year 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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