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Satellite remote sensing of sea-ice thickness and kinematics: a review

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Observations of sea-ice thickness and kinematics are essential for understanding changes in sea-ice mass balance, interactions between the ice cover and the ocean and atmosphere and for improving projections of sea-ice response in a warming climate. these parameters are not directly observable with current sensor technology, but are derived from satellite altimetry and imagery. while there is progress in the retrievals of arctic sea-ice thickness from satellite altimetry, approaches to address southern ocean ice thickness require additional attention. on the other hand, procedures to derive sea-ice motion from satellite imagery are more mature and better understood and have been employed to produce useful results for more than a decade. adequate sampling of sub-daily ice motion, however, remains a challenge. generally, satellite instruments provide large-scale coverage but the frequency of temporal sampling is limited by orbit characteristics. in this review, i focus on the approaches, uncertainties, sampling limitations and validation issues associated with the estimation of sea-ice thickness and motion. i provide a summary of current and anticipated capabilities for monitoring sea-ice thickness and kinematics from space. the prospects for continuing these measurements into the next decade, from a satellite remote-sensing perspective, are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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