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The potential of using Landsat 7 ETM+ for the classification of sea-ice surface conditions during summer

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During spring and summer, the surface of the Arctic sea-ice cover undergoes rapid changes that greatly affect the surface albedo and significantly impact the further decay of the sea ice. These changes are primarily the development of a wet snow cover and the development of melt ponds. As melt ponds generally do not exceed a couple of meters in diameter, the spatial resolutions of sensors like the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer are too coarse for their identification. Landsat 7, on the other hand, has a spatial resolution of 30 m (15 m for the panchromatic band) and thus offers the best chance to map the distribution of melt ponds from space. The different wavelengths (bands) from blue to near-infrared offer the potential to distinguish among different surface conditions. Landsat 7 data for the Baffin Bay region for June 2000 have been analyzed. The analysis shows that different surface conditions, such as wet snow and melt-ponded areas, have different signatures in the individual Landsat bands. Consistent with in situ albedo measurements, melt ponds show up as blueish, whereas dry and wet ice have a white to gray appearance in the Landsat true-color image. These spectral differences enable areas with high fractions of melt ponds to be distinguished.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-01-01

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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.

    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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