The observational uncertainty in sea ice concentration estimates from remotely sensed passive microwave brightness temperatures is a challenge for reliable climate model evaluation and initialization. To address this challenge, we introduce a new tool: the Arctic Ocean Observation Operator (ARC3O). ARC3O allows us to simulate brightness temperatures at 6.9 GHz at vertical polarization from standard output of an Earth System Model. To evaluate sources of uncertainties when applying ARC3O, we compare brightness temperatures simulated by applying ARC3O on three assimilation runs of the MPI Earth System Model (MPI-ESM), assimilated with three different sea ice concentration products, with brightness temperatures measured by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) from space. We find that the simulated and observed brightness temperatures differ up to 10 K in the period between October and June, depending on the region and the assimilation run. We show that these discrepancies between simulated and observed brightness temperature can be attributed mainly to the underlying observational uncertainty in sea ice concentration and, to a lesser extent, to the data assimilation process, rather than to biases in ARC3O itself. In summer, the discrepancies between simulated and observed brightness temperatures are larger than in winter and locally reach up to 20 K. This is caused by the very large observational uncertainty in summer sea ice concentration and the melt pond parametrization in MPI-ESM, which is not necessarily realistic. ARC3O is therefore capable of realistically translating the simulated Arctic Ocean climate state into one observable quantity for a more comprehensive climate model evaluation and initialization.
Burgard, C., Notz, D., Pedersen, L. T., & Tonboe, R. T. (2020). The Arctic Ocean Observation Operator for 6.9 GHz (ARC3O) – Part 2: Development and evaluation. Cryosphere, 14(7), 2387–2407. https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-14-2387-2020