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Effects of atmospheric water and surface wind on passive microwave retrievals of sea ice concentration: a simulation study

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The atmospheric effects on the retrieval of sea ice concentration from passive microwave sensors were examined using simulated data typical for the Arctic summer. The simulation includes atmospheric contributions of cloud liquid water (CLW), water vapour (WV) and surface wind on the microwave signatures. A plane parallel radiative transfer model was used to compute brightness temperatures at SSM/I frequencies over surfaces that contained open water, first-year (FY) ice, multi-year (MY) ice and their combinations. Synthetic retrievals were performed using the NASA Team (NT) algorithm for the estimation of sea ice concentrations. Our results show that if the satellite sensor's field of view is filled with only FY ice, the retrieval is hardly affected by the atmospheric conditions because of the high contrast between emission signals from the FY ice surface and the atmosphere. Pure MY ice concentration is generally underestimated because of the low MY ice surface emissivity, which results in the enhancement of emission signals from the atmosphere. In marginal ice areas, the atmospheric and surface effects tend to degrade the accuracy at low sea ice concentrations. FY ice concentration is overestimated and MY ice concentration is underestimated in the presence of atmospheric water and surface wind at low ice concentration. Moreover, strong surface wind appears to be more important than atmospheric water in contributing to the retrieval errors of total ice concentrations over marginal ice zones.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea 2: Center for Earth Observing and Space Research, George Mason University, Fairfax, USA 3: National Ice Center, Washington, DC 20395, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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