Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Multisensor comparison of ice concentration estimates in the marginal ice zone


  • B. A. Burns,

  • D. J. Cavalieri,

  • M. R. Keller,

  • W. J. Campbell,

  • T. C. Grenfell,

  • G. A. Maykut,

  • P. Gloersen


Aircraft remote sensing data collected during the 1984 summer Marginal Ice Zone Experiment in the Fram Strait are used to compare ice concentration estimates derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery, passive microwave imagery at several frequencies, aerial photography, and spectral photometer data. The comparison is carried out not only to evaluate SAR performance against more established techniques but also to investigate how ice surface conditions, imaging geometry, and choice of algorithm parameters affect estimates made by each sensor. Active and passive microwave sensor estimates of ice concentration derived using similar algorithms show an rms difference of 13%. Agreement between each microwave sensor and near-simultaneous aerial photography is approximately the same (14%). The availability of high-resolution microwave imagery makes it possible to ascribe the discrepancies in the concentration estimates to variations in ice surface signatures in the scene.