Recent Advances in Satellite and Airborne Altimetry over Arctic Sea Ice
Abstract:Over the last two decades altimeters on satellite and aircraft platforms have revolutionized our understanding of Arctic sea ice mass balance. Satellite laser and radar altimeters provide unique measurements of sea ice elevation, from which ice thickness may be derived, across basin scales and interdecadal time periods. Meanwhile airborne altimetry, together with high-resolution digital imagery, provides a range of novel observations that describe key features of the ice pack including its snow cover, surface morphology and deformation characteristics.
We provide an update on current Arctic sea ice thickness conditions based on IceBridge measurements, discussing these in the context of previously observed decadal change. Fundamental to the goal of understanding interannual variability, and monitoring long-term trends in sea ice volume, is the accurate characterization of measurement uncertainty. This is particularly true when linking observations from different sensors. We discuss recent advances in tracking and quantifying the major components of the altimetric sea ice thickness error budget. We pay particular attention to two major components of the error: freeboard and snow loading uncertainty. We describe novel measurement techniques that are helping to reduce measurement uncertainty and allowing, for the first time, quantification of errors with respect to ice type.