Seasonal comparisons of sea ice concentration estimates derived from SSM/I, OKEAN, and RADARSAT data

Remote Sensing of Environment
By:  and 



The Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) microwave satellite radiometer and its predecessor SMMR are primary sources of information for global sea ice and climate studies. However, comparisons of SSM/I, Landsat, AVHRR, and ERS-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) have shown substantial seasonal and regional differences in their estimates of sea ice concentration. To evaluate these differences, we compared SSM/I estimates of sea ice coverage derived with the NASA Team and Bootstrap algorithms to estimates made using RADARSAT, and OKEAN-01 satellite sensor data. The study area included the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, and adjacent parts of the Arctic Ocean, during October 1995 through October 1999. Ice concentration estimates from spatially and temporally near-coincident imagery were calculated using independent algorithms for each sensor type. The OKEAN algorithm implemented the satellite's two-channel active (radar) and passive microwave data in a linear mixture model based on the measured values of brightness temperature and radar backscatter. The RADARSAT algorithm utilized a segmentation approach of the measured radar backscatter, and the SSM/I ice concentrations were derived at National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) using the NASA Team and Bootstrap algorithms. Seasonal and monthly differences between SSM/I, OKEAN, and RADARSAT ice concentrations were calculated and compared. Overall, total sea ice concentration estimates derived independently from near-coincident RADARSAT, OKEAN-01, and SSM/I satellite imagery demonstrated mean differences of less than 5.5% (S.D.<9.5%) during the winter period. Differences between the SSM/I NASA Team and the SSM/I Bootstrap concentrations were no more than 3.1% (S.D.<5.4%) during this period. RADARSAT and OKEAN-01 data both yielded higher total ice concentrations than the NASA Team and the Bootstrap algorithms. The Bootstrap algorithm yielded higher total ice concentrations than the NASA Team algorithm. Total ice concentrations derived from OKEAN-01 and SSM/I satellite imagery were highly correlated during winter, spring, and fall, with mean differences of less than 8.1% (S.D.<15%) for the NASA Team algorithm, and less than 2.8% (S.D.<13.8%) for the Bootstrap algorithm. Respective differences between SSM/I NASA Team and SSM/I Bootstrap total concentrations were less than 5.3% (S.D.<6.9%). Monthly mean differences between SSM/I and OKEAN differed annually by less than 6%, with smaller differences primarily in winter. The NASA Team and Bootstrap algorithms underestimated the total sea ice concentrations relative to the RADARSAT ScanSAR no more than 3.0% (S.D.<9%) and 1.2% (S.D.<7.5%) during cold months, and no more than 12% and 7% during summer, respectively. ScanSAR tended to estimate higher ice concentrations for ice concentrations greater than 50%, when compared to SSM/I during all months. ScanSAR underestimated total sea ice concentration by 2% compared to the OKEAN-01 algorithm during cold months, and gave an overestimation by 2% during spring and summer months. Total NASA Team and Bootstrap sea ice concentration estimates derived from coincident SSM/I and OKEAN-01 data demonstrated mean differences of no more than 5.3% (S.D.<7%), 3.1% (S.D.<5.5%), 2.0% (S.D.<5.5%), and 7.3% (S.D.<10%) for fall, winter, spring, and summer periods, respectively. Large disagreements were observed between the OKEAN and NASA Team results in spring and summer for estimates of the first-year (FY) and multiyear (MY) age classes. The OKEAN-01 algorithm and data tended to estimate, on average, lower concentrations of young or FY ice and higher concentrations of total and MY ice for all months and seasons. Our results contribute to the growing body of documentation about the levels of disparity obtained when seasonal sea ice concentrations are estimated using various types of satellite data and algorithms.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Seasonal comparisons of sea ice concentration estimates derived from SSM/I, OKEAN, and RADARSAT data
Series title Remote Sensing of Environment
DOI 10.1016/S0034-4257(01)00333-9
Volume 81
Issue 1
Year Published 2002
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Alaska Biological Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 67
Last page 81
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