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A comparison of East Antarctic sea-ice motion derived using drifting buoys and remote sensing

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Results of East Antarctic (20–160° E) sea-ice motion derived from drifting buoys (collected in eight selected years between 1985 and 1997) are compared with sea-ice motion derived from sequential images from the 37 and 85.5 GHz channels of the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR, 1979-87) and the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I, 1987–97). For the latitudes of interest, buoys yield velocity fields at 2 hourly resolution, while SMMR and SSM/I provide daily data. The spatial coverage of the drifting buoys is relatively sparse compared to the complete coverage of the southern sea-ice zone by SMMR and SSM/I, but the accuracy of the buoy position is better than ±280 m, while the resolution for the 85.5 GHz channel is only about 12.5 km, and about 25 km for the 37 GHz channel. The buoy measurements represent point motion, equal to the velocity of an individual ice floe, while the satellite data derived via the maximum cross-correlation method represent the motion of surface patterns within a gridcell. Comparison of the mean distributions of daily velocity derived from the datasets shows that while the broad-scale velocity patterns agree, the magnitude of the satellite-derived sea-ice velocities is significantly lower (typically by 40% or less) than the velocities derived from buoy measurements. This is in contrast with previous studies for the Arctic Ocean and the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. To elucidate differences in the velocity magnitude, individual trajectories from a number of drift regimes off East Antarctica are directly compared. Discrepancies between the two datasets are discussed with regard to the difference in spatial resolution of the data, the data-collection and -processing methods and the observed region.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-01-01

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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.

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