Ku-Band radar penetration into Snow over Arctic Sea Ice

Stefan Hendricks, Lars Stenseng, Veit Helm, Susanne Hanson, Christian Haas

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch


Sea ice freeboard measurements are of great interest for basin-scale ice mass balance monitoring. Typically, laser- and radar-altimeters are used for freeboard retrieval in operational systems such as aircrafts and satellites. For laser beams it can be assumed that the dominant reflector is the snow/air interface, whereas radar waves interact with the variable physical properties of the snow cover on the Arctic sea ice. In addition, radar elevation measurements may vary for different retracker algorithms, which determine the track point of the scattered echo power distribution. Since accurate knowledge of the reflection horizon is critical for sea ice thickness retrieval, validation data is necessary to investigate the penetration of radar waves into the snow for the upcoming CryoSat-2 mission. Furthermore, the combination of both optical and RF wavelengths might be used to derive snow thickness, if radar altimeters are capable of measuring the distance to the snow-ice interface reliably. We present the results of aircraft campaigns in the Arctic with a scanning laser altimeter and the Airborne SAR/Interferometric Radar Altimeter System (ASIRAS) of the European Space Agency. The elevation observations are converted into freeboard profiles, taking the different footprints into account when comparing the two systems. Based on the probability distribution of laser and radar freeboard we discuss the specific characteristics of both systems and the apparent radar penetration over sea ice in the northern Baltic Sea, the Greenland and Lincoln Sea. The results show differences in the penetration of Ku-Band radar between regions and interannual variability. In general, snow thickness could not be derived in the Arctic, whereas the penetration behavior correlates with other (QuikScat) remote sensing products.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event2009 AGU Fall Meeting - San Fransisco, CA, United States
Duration: 14 Dec 200918 Dec 2009


Conference2009 AGU Fall Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Fransisco, CA
Internet address


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