RETRIEVALS OF ANTARCTIC SEA ICE PHYSICAL PROPERTIES FROM SATELLITE RADAR ALTIMETRY
Fons, Steven William
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Satellite observations have been used in sea ice research throughout the last 40+ years and have brought to light substantial changes in the global sea ice coverage. More recently, satellite altimetry has become a valuable tool to estimate the thickness of sea ice - a parameter that plays an important role in the Earth System by moderating heat and moisture fluxes between the polar ocean and atmosphere. While radar altimetry has been effective in providing estimates of Arctic sea ice thickness, the complex snow stratigraphy and uncertain snow depth on Antarctic sea ice have precluded sea ice thickness retrievals in the Southern Ocean, leading to a decade-long gap in the thickness record spanning the lifetime of ESA’s CryoSat-2 satellite. This dissertation will address the need for Antarctic sea ice thickness estimates from CryoSat-2 through the development and assessment of new retrievals of sea ice physical properties that enable the estimation of sea ice thickness.The first part of this dissertation is aimed at developing a CryoSat-2 retrieval algorithm that is less dependent on uncertain returns from the snow-ice interface of Antarctic sea ice. This method exploits observed scattering of Ku-band radar pulses from the snow surface and snow volume atop sea ice and uses a physical waveform model and optimization approach to retrieve the air-snow interface elevation and snow freeboard. Building off the initial development, the second part of this work offers improvements to – and assessments of – the retrieval process though comparisons with coincident snow freeboard measurements from NASA’s ICESat-2 laser altimeter. The final part of this dissertation uses the retrieval process to estimate snow depth and ice freeboard, enabling first estimates of Antarctic sea ice thickness that span the CryoSat-2 mission. Potential applications for use of this method over Arctic sea ice are also explored. The studies within this dissertation represent new possibilities for CryoSat-2 data and lay a foundation for the development of a combined laser-radar altimetric record of Antarctic sea ice thickness.