Evolution in polarimetric signatures of thin saline ice under constant growth


  • S. V. Nghiem,

  • R. Kwok,

  • S. H. Yueh,

  • A. J. Gow,

  • D. K. Perovich,

  • J. A. Kong,

  • C. C. Hsu


An experiment is carried out to measure polarimetric backscatter signatures at C band together with physical characteristics of thin saline ice grown at a constant rate under quiescent conditions. The objectives are to investigate the electromagnetic scattering mechanism in saline ice, to relate the polarimetric backscatter to ice physical characteristics, and to assess the inversion of ice thickness from backscatter data. Controlled laboratory conditions are utilized to avoid complicated variations in interrelated characteristics of saline ice and the environment. The ice sheet was grown in a refrigerated facility at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. Growth conditions, thickness and growth rate, temperatures and salinities, and internal and interfacial structures of the ice sheet were monitored. Measurements indicate that the laboratory saline ice has characteristics similar to thin sea ice in the Arctic. A strong increase of 6–10 dB is observed in backscatter as the ice grows from 3 to 11.2 cm in thickness. Ice characteristics and processes suggest that the large enhancement in backscatter relates to the interconnection and increase in the size of brine inclusions during the desalination process. Polarimetric signatures calculated with a physically based sea ice model agree with backscatter data at incident angles from 20° to 35° over the thickness range of the ice growth. Furthermore, backscattering coefficients of the saline ice sheet are shown to be similar to airborne radar measurements of thin sea ice growing in a newly opened lead in the Beaufort Sea. For the inversion the large increase in backscatter indicates that the ice thickness is retrievable for thin ice grown under the conditions in this experiment. More complicated conditions should be considered in future experiments to study their effects on the retrieval of sea ice parameters.