Sea ice thickness retrieval from SMOS brightness temperatures during the Arctic freeze-up period



[1] The Microwave Imaging Radiometer using Aperture Synthesis (MIRAS) on board the European Space Agency's (ESA) Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission for the first time measures globally Earth's radiation at a frequency of 1.4 GHz (L-band). It had been hypothesized that L-band radiometry can be used to measure the sea ice thickness due to the large penetration depth in the sea ice medium. We demonstrate the potential of SMOS to derive the thickness of thin sea ice for the Arctic freeze-up period using a novel retrieval algorithm based on Level 1C brightness temperatures. The SMOS ice thickness product is compared with an ice growth model and independent sea ice thickness estimates from MODIS thermal infrared imagery. The ice thickness derived from SMOS is highly consistent with the temporal development of the growth simulation and agrees with the ice thickness from MODIS images with 10 cm standard deviation. The results confirm that SMOS can be used to retrieve sea ice thickness up to half a meter under ideal cold conditions with surface air temperatures below −10°C and high-concentration sea ice coverage.