Burgard, Clara; Notz, Dirk; Pedersen, Leif T.; Tonboe, Rasmus T.

We explore the feasibility of an observation operator producing passive microwave brightness temperatures for sea ice at a frequency of 6.9 GHz. We investigate the influence of simplifying assumptions for the representation of sea ice vertical properties on the simulation of microwave brightness temperatures. We do so in a one-dimensional setup, using a complex 1D thermodynamic sea ice model and a 1D microwave emission model. We find that realistic brightness temperatures can be simulated in cold conditions from a simplified linear temperature profile and a simplified salinity profile as a function of depth in the ice. These realistic brightness temperatures can be obtained based on profiles interpolated to as few as five layers. Most of the uncertainty resulting from the simplifications is introduced by the simplification of the salinity profiles. In warm conditions, the simplified salinity profiles lead to brine volume fractions that are too high in the subsurface layer. To overcome this limitation, we suggest using a constant brightness temperature for the ice during warm conditions and treating melt ponds as water surfaces. Finally, in our setup, we cannot assess the effect of wet snow properties. As periods of snow with intermediate moisture content, typically occurring in spring and fall, locally last for less than a month, our approach allows one to estimate realistic brightness temperatures at 6.9 GHz from climate model output for most of the year.

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Burgard, Clara / Notz, Dirk / Pedersen, Leif T. / et al: The Arctic Ocean Observation Operator for 6.9 GHz (ARC3O) – Part 1: How to obtain sea ice brightness temperatures at 6.9 GHz from climate model output. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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