Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Deriving long-term time series of sea ice cover from satellite passive-microwave multisensor data sets


  • D. J. Cavalieri,

  • C. L. Parkinson,

  • P. Gloersen,

  • J. C. Comiso,

  • H. J. Zwally


We have generated consistent sea ice extent and area data records spanning 18.2 years from passive-microwave radiances obtained with the Nimbus 7 scanning multichannel microwave radiometer and with the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program F8, F11, and F13 special sensor microwave/imagers. The goal in the creation of these data was to produce a long-term, consistent set of sea ice extents and areas that provides the means for reliably determining sea ice variability over the 18.2-year period and also serves as a baseline for future measurements. We describe the method used to match the sea ice extents and areas from these four multichannel sensors and summarize the problems encountered when working with radiances from sensors having different frequencies, different footprint sizes, different visit times, and different calibrations. A major obstacle to adjusting for these differences is the lack of a complete year of overlapping data from sequential sensors. Nonetheless, our procedure reduced ice extent differences during periods of sensor overlap to less than 0.05% and ice area differences to 0.6% or less.