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Envisat and SARAL/AltiKa Observations of the Antarctic Ice Sheet: A Comparison Between the Ku-band and Ka-band

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The AltiKa altimeter onboard SARAL is a joint CNES/ISRO mission launched in February 2013 that has the same 35 days repeat orbit of the previous European altimeters, Envisat, and ERS-1/2. SARAL/AltiKa is thus a unique opportunity to extend the repeat observations of this orbit that have been surveyed since 1991. However, the altimeter operates in Ka-band, which is higher than the previous frequencies, and offers new paths of investigation. The penetration depth is theoretically reduced from around 10 m in Ku-band to less than 1 m in Ka-band, such that the volume echo originates from the near subsurface. Second, the sharper antenna aperture leads to a narrower leading edge that reduces the impact of the ratio between surface and volume echoes of the height retrieval. Indeed, the spatial and temporal observations of AltiKa at cross-over points and along-track indicate that the impact of backscatter changes on the height decreasesfrom 0.3 m/dB for the Ku-band to only 0.05 m/dB for the Ka-band. Therefore, the height measurement is stable over time. Moreover, the volume echo in the Ka-band results from the near subsurface layer and is mostly controlled by ice grain size, unlike the Ku-band.
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Keywords: Antarctica; Satellite Altimetry; ice sheet

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiale (LEGOS), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Toulouse, France

Publication date: September 10, 2015

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