Comparing elevation and backscatter retrievals from CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 over Arctic summer sea ice
The CryoSat-2 radar altimeter and ICESat-2 laser altimeter can provide complementary measurements of the freeboard and thickness of Arctic sea ice. However, both sensors face significant challenges for accurately measuring the ice freeboard when the sea ice is melting in summer months. Here, we used crossover points between CryoSat2 and ICESat-2 to compare elevation retrievals over summer sea ice between 2018–2021. We focused on the electromagnetic (EM) bias documented in CryoSat-2 measurements, associated with surface melt ponds over summer sea ice which cause the radar altimeter to underestimate elevation. The laser altimeter of ICESat-2 is not susceptible to this bias but has other biases associated with melt ponds. So, we compared the elevation difference and reflectance statistics between the two satellites. We found that CryoSat2 underestimated elevation compared to ICESat-2 by a median difference of 2.4 cm and by a median absolute deviation of 5.3 cm, while the differences between individual ICESat2 beams and CryoSat-2 ranged between 1–3.5 cm. Spatial and temporal patterns of the bias were compared to surface roughness information derived from the ICESat-2 elevation data, the ICESat-2 photon rate (surface reflectivity), the CryoSat-2 backscatter, and the melt pond fraction derived from Sentinel-3 Ocean and Land Color Instrument (OLCI) data. We found good agreement between theoretical predictions of the CryoSat-2 EM melt pond bias and our new observations; however, at typical roughness < 0.1 m the experimentally measured bias was larger (5–10 cm) compared to biases resulting from the theoretical simulations (0–5 cm). This intercomparison will be valuable for interpreting and improving the summer sea ice freeboard retrievals from both altimeters.
CitationDawson, Landy. Comparing elevation and backscatter retrievals from CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 over Arctic summer sea ice. The Cryosphere. 2023
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