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Retrieval of thin-ice thickness using the L-band polarization ratio measured by the helicopter-borne scatterometer HELISCAT

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Climate warming makes an increasing thin-ice fraction likely to occur in the Arctic, underpinning the need for its regular observation. Synchronous helicopter-borne measurements of the sea-ice thickness and like-polarized L-band radar backscatter carried out along identical flight tracks north of Svalbard during winter are combined to develop an algorithm to estimate the thin-ice thickness solely from the L-band backscatter co-polarization ratio (LCPR). Airborne ice-thickness and LCPR data are smoothed along track (to reduce noise), co-located and compared. A linear and a logarithmic fit are applied using thickness values between 0.0 and 0.6 m and 0.0 and 1.0 m, respectively. The thin-ice thickness is derived from the LCPR data using these fits, first for dependent data (used to obtain the fits) and subsequently for independent data. The results are compared to airborne ice-thickness measurements for ice-thickness values between 0.0 and 0.6 m using linear regression. The logarithmic fit gives the most reliable results, with a correlation of 0.72 and a rms difference of 8 cm. It permits us to derive the thickness of thin ice (below 50–60 cm thickness) from airborne LCPR data with an uncertainty of about 10 cm.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-11-01

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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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