19 Jan 2023
19 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Comparing elevation and backscatter retrievals from CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 over Arctic summer sea ice

Geoffrey Dawson1 and Jack Landy2 Geoffrey Dawson and Jack Landy
  • 1Bristol Glaciology Centre, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • 2Department of Physics and Technology, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Abstract. The CryoSat-2 radar altimeter and ICESat-2 laser altimeter can provide complimentary 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 CryoSat-2 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 CryoSat-2 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 ICESat-2 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 melt pond fraction derived from Seintnel-3 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.

Geoffrey Dawson and Jack Landy

Status: open (until 16 Mar 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Geoffrey Dawson and Jack Landy

Geoffrey Dawson and Jack Landy


Total article views: 137 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total BibTeX EndNote
96 38 3 137 1 1
  • HTML: 96
  • PDF: 38
  • XML: 3
  • Total: 137
  • BibTeX: 1
  • EndNote: 1
Views and downloads (calculated since 19 Jan 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 19 Jan 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 139 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 139 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 26 Jan 2023
Short summary
In this study, we compared measurements from CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 over Arctic summer sea ice, to understand any possible biases between the two satellites. We found that there is a difference when we measure elevation over summer sea ice using CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 and this is likely due to surface melt ponds. The differences we found were in good agreement with theoretical predictions, and this work will be valuable for summer sea ice thickness measurements from both altimeters.