Pixel‐scale evaluation of SSM/I sea‐ice algorithms in the marginal ice zone during early fall freeze‐up

Byonjun Hwang, David G. Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Observed reduction in recent sea ice areal extent and thickness has focused attention on the fact that the Arctic marine system appears to be responding to global‐scale climate variability and change. Passive microwave remote‐sensing data are the primary source underpinning these reports, yet problems remain in geophysical inversion of information on ice type and concentration. Uncertainty in sea‐ice concentration (SIC) retrievals is highest in the summer and fall, when water occurs in liquid phase within the snow–sea‐ice system. Of particular scientific interest is the timing and rate of new ice formation due to the control that this form of sea ice has on mass, energy and gas fluxes across the ocean–sea‐ice–atmosphere interface. In this paper we examine the critical fall freeze‐up period using in situ data from a ship‐based and aerial survey programme known as the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange study combined with microwave and optical Earth observations data.

Results show that: (1) the overall physical conditions observed from aerial survey photography were well matched with coincident moderate‐resolution imaging spectroradiometer data and Radarsat ScanSAR imagery; (2) the shortwave albedo was linearly related to old ice concentration derived from survey photography; (3) the three SSM/I SIC algorithms (NASA Team (NT), NASA Team 2 (NT2), and Bootstrap (BT)) showed considerable discrepancies in pixel‐scale comparison with the Radarsat ScanSAR SICs well calibrated by the aerial survey data. The major causes of the discrepancies are attributed to (1) the inherent inability to detect the new thin ice in the NT and BT algorithms, (2) mismatches of the thin‐ice tie point of the NT2 algorithm, and (3) sub‐pixel ambiguity between the thin ice and the mixture of open water and sea ice. These results suggest the need for finer resolution of passive microwave sensors, such as AMSR‐E, to improve the precision of the SSM/I SIC algorithms in the marginal ice zone during early fall freeze‐up.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1909-1927
Number of pages19
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


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