Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Arctic sea ice concentrations from special sensor microwave imager and advanced very high resolution radiometer satellite data


  • W. J. Emery,

  • C. Fowler,

  • J. Maslanik


Nearly coincident data from the special sensor microwave imager (SSM/I) and the advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) are used to compute and compare Arctic sea ice concentrations for different regions and times of the year. To help determine overall accuracies and to highlight sources of differences between passive microwave, optical wavelength, and thermal wavelength data, ice concentrations are estimated using two operational SSM/I ice concentration algorithms and with visible- and thermal-infrared wavelength AVHRR data. All algorithms capture the seasonal patterns of ice growth and melt. The ranges of differences fall within the general levels of uncertainty expected for each method and are similar to previous accuracy estimates. The estimated ice concentrations are all highly correlated, with uniform biases, although differences between individual pairs of observations can be large. On average, the NASA Team algorithm yielded 5% higher ice concentrations than the Bootstrap algorithm, while during nonmelt periods the two SSM/I algorithms agree to within 0.5%. These seasonal differences are consistent with the ways that the 19-GHz and 37-GHz microwave channels are used in the algorithms. When compared to the AVHRR-derived ice concentrations, the Team-algorithm results are more similar on average in terms of correlation and mean differences. However, the Team algorithm underestimates concentrations relative to the AVHRR output by 6% during cold months and overestimates by 3% during summer. Little seasonal difference exists between the Bootstrap and AVHRR results, with a mean difference of about 5%. Although the mean differences are less between the SSM/I-derived concentrations and concentrations estimated using AVHRR channel 1, the correlations appear substantially better between the SSM/I data and concentrations derived from AVHRR channel 4, particularly for the Team algorithm output.