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Characteristics of sea ice in the Okhotsk coastal polynyas revealed by satellites, ice-profiling sonar and digital camera observations

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The characteristics of ice in the Okhotsk coastal polynyas are examined. A map of AMSR-E thin-ice thickness in the northwest shelf region shows that most of the coastal polynya area is covered by thin ice with a thickness of 0.1 m. The thickness increases sharply at the edge of the polynya. From comparisons with QuikSCAT backscatter, the thin-ice area corresponds well with the low-backscatter area during almost all the coastal polynya period. A comparison with ice thickness measured by an ice-profiling sonar in the coastal polynya region of northeastern Sakhalin shows a similar relationship, with the backscatter tending to be low when the ice is thin. The averaged backscatter of thin (≤0.1 m) ice is –19.6 ± 2.8 dB (horizontal polarization). The backscatter of thin ice is considered to be mainly determined by the surface roughness because volume scattering of thin ice is low due to the dielectric properties associated with the high salinity. The results of this study suggest that the coastal polynya is covered with grease ice/nilas whose surface is almost mirror smooth. This is confirmed by a comparison with photographs taken at the coastal polynya region near Magadan, Russia. At the outer edge of the coastal polynya, a region of relatively high backscatter (>–16 dB) exists, probably because it has a rougher ice surface than the polynya area. This suggests that ice motion in this area may be convergent.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2011

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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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