Altimetric Ku-band Radar Observations of Snow on Sea Ice Simulated with SMRT

Meloche, Julien; Sandells, Melody; Löwe, Henning; Rutter, Nick; Essery, Richard; Picard, Ghislain; Scharien, Randall K.; Langlois, Alexandre; Jaggi, Matthias; King, Josh; Toose, Peter; Bouffard, Jérôme; Di Bella, Alessandro; Scagliola, Michele

Sea ice thickness is essential for climate studies and numerical weather prediction. Radar altimetry has provided sea ice thickness measurement since the launch of ERS-1 and currently through CryoSat-2, Sentinel-3 and Altika but uncertainty in the scattering horizon used to retrieve sea ice thickness arises from interactions between the emitted signal and snow cover on the ice surface. Therefore, modelling the scattering of the electromagnetic waves with the snowpack and ice is necessary to retrieve the sea ice thickness accurately. The Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) model was used to simulate the low resolution altimeter waveform echo from the snow-covered sea ice, using in-situ measurements as input. Measurement from four field campaigns were used: Cambridge Bay, Eureka Sound and near Alert, Nunavut, Canada in April 2022 in the cold and later winter condition when snow and ice thickness are neat their seasonal maxima prior to melt. In-situ measurements included snow temperature, salinity, density, specific surface area, microstructure from X-ray tomography and surface roughness measurements using structure from motion photogrammetry. Evaluation of SMRT in altimeter mode was performed against CryoSat-2 waveform data in pseudo-low-resolution mode. Simulated and observed waveforms showed good agreement, although it was necessary to adjust sea ice roughness. The retrieved roughness (root-mean-square height) in Cambridge Bay was 2.1 mm and 1.6 mm in Eureka, which was close to the observed value of 1.4 mm for flat sea ice. In addition, simulations of backscatter in preparation for the European Space Agency's CRISTAL mission demonstrated the dominance of scattering from the snow surface at Ku and Ka-band. However, these findings depend on the parameterisation of the roughness. The scattering from the snow surface dominates when roughness is high, but the interface return dominates if the roughness is low ( < 2.5 mm). This is the first study to consider scattering within the snow and demonstrate the origin of CryoSat-2 signals. This work paved the way to a new physical retracker using SMRT to retrieve snow depth and sea ice thickness for radar altimeter missions.



Meloche, Julien / Sandells, Melody / Löwe, Henning / et al: Altimetric Ku-band Radar Observations of Snow on Sea Ice Simulated with SMRT. 2024. Copernicus Publications.


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