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A Facet-Based Numerical Model for Simulating SAR Altimeter Echoes from Heterogeneous Sea Ice Surfaces

Landy, JC; Tsamados, M; Scharien, RK; (2019) A Facet-Based Numerical Model for Simulating SAR Altimeter Echoes from Heterogeneous Sea Ice Surfaces. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing , 57 (7) pp. 4164-4180. 10.1109/TGRS.2018.2889763. Green open access

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Abstract

Cryosat-2 has provided measurements of pan-Arctic sea ice thickness since 2010 with unprecedented spatial coverage and frequency. However, it remains uncertain how the Ku-band radar interacts with the vast range of scatterers that can be present within the satellite footprint, including sea ice with varying physical properties and multi-scale roughness, snow cover, and leads. Here, we present a numerical model designed to simulate delay-Doppler SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) altimeter echoes from snow-covered sea ice, such as those detected by Cryosat-2. Backscattered echoes are simulated directly from triangular facetbased models of actual sea ice topography generated from Operation IceBridge Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) data, as well as virtual statistical models simulated artificially. We use these waveform simulations to investigate the sensitivity of SAR altimeter echoes to variations in satellite parameters (height, pitch, roll) and sea ice properties (physical properties, roughness, presence of water). We show that the conventional Gaussian assumption for sea ice surface roughness may be introducing significant error into the Cryosat-2 waveform retracking process. Compared to a more representative lognormal surface, an echo simulated from a Gaussian surface with rms roughness height of 0.2 m underestimates the ice freeboard by 5 cm – potentially underestimating sea ice thickness by around 50 cm. We present a set of ‘ideal’ waveform shape parameters simulated for sea ice and leads to inform existing waveform classification techniques. This model will ultimately be used to improve retrievals of key sea ice properties, including freeboard, surface roughness and snow depth, from SAR altimeter observations.

Type: Article
Title: A Facet-Based Numerical Model for Simulating SAR Altimeter Echoes from Heterogeneous Sea Ice Surfaces
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1109/TGRS.2018.2889763
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1109/TGRS.2018.2889763
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Radar Altimetry; Synthetic Aperture Radar; Radar Scattering; Numerical Analysis; Modeling; Sea Ice; Snow.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10078590
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