Combined SMAP–SMOS thin sea ice thickness retrieval

TitleCombined SMAP–SMOS thin sea ice thickness retrieval
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsPaţilea C, Heygster G, Huntemann M, Spreen G
JournalThe Cryosphere
Date Published2019-02-28
PublisherCopernicus GmbH
Place PublishedGöttingen

The spaceborne passive microwave sensors Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS) and Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) provide brightness temperature data in the L band (1.4 GHz). At this low frequency the atmosphere is close to transparent and in polar regions the thickness of thin sea ice can be derived. SMOS measurements cover a large incidence angle range, whereas SMAP observes at a fixed 40∘ incidence angle. By using brightness temperatures at a fixed incidence angle obtained directly (SMAP), or through interpolation (SMOS), thin sea ice thickness retrieval is more consistent as the incidence angle effects do not have to be taken into account. Here we transfer a retrieval algorithm for the thickness of thin sea ice (up to 50 cm) from SMOS data at 40 to 50∘ incidence angle to the fixed incidence angle of SMAP. The SMOS brightness temperatures (TBs) at a given incidence angle are estimated using empirical fit functions. SMAP TBs are calibrated to SMOS to provide a merged SMOS–SMAP sea ice thickness product. The new merged SMOS–SMAP thin ice thickness product was improved upon in several ways compared to previous thin ice thickness retrievals. (i) The combined product provides a better temporal and spatial coverage of the polar regions due to the usage of two sensors. (ii) The radio frequency interference (RFI) filtering method was improved, which results in higher data availability over both ocean and sea ice areas. (iii) For the intercalibration between SMOS and SMAP brightness temperatures the root mean square difference (RMSD) was reduced by 30 % relative to a prior attempt. (iv) The algorithm presented here allows also for separate retrieval from any of the two sensors, which makes the ice thickness dataset more resistant against failure of one of the sensors. A new way to estimate the uncertainty of ice thickness retrieval was implemented, which is based on the brightness temperature sensitivities.

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Yes - Green OA
Sea Ice
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Work Package: 
WP3 - Enhancement of multidisciplinary in situ observing systems