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53 Estimation of Surface Freeze–Thaw States Using Microwave Sensors

Part 5. Remote Sensing

  1. Kyle C McDonald1,
  2. John S Kimball2,3

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa059a

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

McDonald, K. C. and Kimball, J. S. 2006. Estimation of Surface Freeze–Thaw States Using Microwave Sensors. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 5:53.

Author Information

  1. 1

    California Institute of Technology, Water and Carbon Cycles Group, Science Division, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, US

  2. 2

    Flathead Lake Biological Station, The University of Montana, Division of Biological Sciences, Polson, MT, US

  3. 3

    The University of Montana, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, Missoula, MT, US

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


The transition of the landscape between predominantly frozen and nonfrozen conditions in seasonally frozen environments impacts climate, hydrological, ecological, and biogeochemical processes profoundly. Satellite microwave remote sensing is uniquely capable of detecting and monitoring a range of related biophysical processes associated with the measurement of landscape freeze/thaw status. This chapter provides an overview of the development, physical basis, current techniques, and selected hydrological applications of satellite-borne microwave remote sensing of landscape freeze/thaw states for the terrestrial cryosphere. Major landscape hydrological processes embracing the remotely sensed freeze/thaw signal include timing and spatial dynamics of seasonal snowmelt and associated soil thaw, runoff generation, and flooding, ice breakup in large rivers and lakes, and timing and length of vegetation growing seasons and associated productivity and trace gas exchange. This chapter also summarizes the physical principles of microwave sensitivity to landscape freeze/thaw state, recent progress in applying these principles towards satellite remote sensing of freeze/thaw processes over broad regions, and potential for future global monitoring of this significant phenomenon of the global cryosphere.


  • freeze/thaw;
  • microwave remote sensing;
  • backscatter;
  • emissivity;
  • cryosphere