Winter Sentinel-1 Backscatter as a Predictor of Spring Arctic Sea Ice Melt Pond Fraction




Scharien, Randall K.
Segal, Rebecca
Nasonova, Sasha
Nandan, Vishnu
Howell, Stephen E. L.
Haas, Christian

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Geophysical Research Letters


Spring melt pond fraction (fp) has been shown to influence September sea ice extent and, with a growing need to improve melt pond physics in climate and forecast models, observations at large spatial scales are needed. We present a novel technique for estimating fp on sea ice at high spatial resolution from the Sentinel‐1 satellite during the winter period leading up to spring melt. A strong correlation (r = −0.85) is found between winter radar backscatter and fp from first‐year and multiyear sea ice data collected in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA) in 2015. Observations made in the CAA in 2016 are used to validate a fp retrieval algorithm, and a fp prediction for the CAA in 2017 is made. The method is effective using the horizontal transmit and receive polarization channel only and shows promise for providing seasonal, pan‐Arctic, fp maps for improved understanding of melt pond distributions and forecast model skill.



sea ice, melt ponds, microwave backscatter, Sentinel-1, seasonal forecast


Scharien, R. K.; Segal, R.; Nasonova, S.; Nandan, V.; Howell, S. E. L.; & Haas, C. (2017). Winter Sentinel-1 backscatter as a predictor of spring Arctic sea ice melt pond fraction. Geophysical Research Letters, 44(24). DOI: 10.1002/2017GL075547