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High-resolution Remote Sensing Summer Arctic Sea Ice Observations for Improved Prediction

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SIPW05 - SIP Follow on: Mathematics of sea ice in the twenty-first century

Observations of Arctic sea ice reveal a negative and accelerating trend of end-of-summer extent, outpacing model projections, which suggests some sea ice processes are not well represented in models. In summer, snow atop the sea ice melts into ponds, decreasing surface albedo and contributing to the ice albedo feedback.  Sea ice model predictions are sensitive to melt pond inclusion, and inclusion of ponds in models reduces the surface albedo and enhances the ice-albedo feedback. Incorporating melt pond formation and evolution processes in models has a significant effect on the predicted sea ice thickness and extent. For these reasons, it is important to understand the melt pond evolution throughout the summer. Remote sensing observations of melt ponds are limited due to atmospheric conditions. In the summer, there is abundant moisture provided by extensive areas of ice-free water, resulting in the formation of low lying clouds. The presence of clouds can obstruct remote sensing measurements of the surface. Furthermore, melt ponds on sea ice appear radiometrically similar to open water and leads, making disambiguation of these surfaces in remotely sensed observations difficult. Thus, our understanding of melt pond processes is lacking at an Arctic-wide level. Scientists rely on predictive models to supplement the limited summer observations.  Here, we present new observational data from the ICE Sat-2 satellite that may be of interest to the modeling community. ICE Sat-2, launched by NASA in 2018, has demonstrated the ability to precisely (~2 cm) measure sea ice height with along-track sampling of 0.7m. We develop and apply sea ice surface recovery algorithms to track ponds in ICE Sat-2 photon cloud data and derive their depth. These findings, in conjunction with observations of melt pond area and size distribution from Sentinel-2 imagery, provide a three-dimensional view of the evolution of summer melt. With widespread data coverage, we are able to gain insight on the regional patterns and temporal evolution of melt on summer sea ice. Our findings may be used to improve parameterization of melt processes in models, quantify freshwater storage, and study the partitioning of under ice light.


This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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