Forward modelling of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) backscatter during lake ice melt conditions using the Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) model

Murfitt, Justin; Duguay, Claude; Picard, Ghislain; Lemmetyinen, Juha

Monitoring of lake ice is important to maintain transportation routes, but in recent decades the number of in situ observations have declined. Remote sensing has worked to fill this gap in observations, with active microwave sensors, particularly synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), being a crucial technology. However, the impact of wet conditions on radar and how interactions change under these conditions have been largely ignored. It is important to understand these interactions as warming conditions are likely to lead to an increase in the occurrence of slush layers. This study works to address this gap using the Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) model to conduct forward-modelling experiments of backscatter for Lake Oulujärvi in Finland. Experiments were conducted under dry conditions, under moderate wet conditions, and under saturated conditions. These experiments reflected field observations during the 2020–2021 ice season. Results of the dry-snow experiments support the dominance of surface scattering from the ice–water interface. However, conditions where layers of wet snow are introduced show that the primary scattering interface changes depending on the location of the wet layer. The addition of a saturated layer at the ice surface results in the highest backscatter values due to the larger dielectric contrast created between the overlying dry snow and the slush layer. Improving the representation of these conditions in SMRT can also aid in more accurate retrievals of lake ice properties such as roughness, which is key for inversion modelling of other properties such as ice thickness.

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Murfitt, Justin / Duguay, Claude / Picard, Ghislain / et al: Forward modelling of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) backscatter during lake ice melt conditions using the Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) model. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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