A Novel Approach to Map the Intensity of Surface Melting on the; Antarctica Ice Sheet using SMAP L-Band Microwave Radiometry Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. The polar ice sheets have undergone unprecedented melt events in the recent past, which have consequences for ice sheet mass balance, stability, and sea level. In this study, we employed L-band (1.4 GHz) brightness temperature observations collected by NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission to investigate the extent, duration and intensity of melt events on the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 2015 to 2020. Satellite microwave measurements have long been used to detect melt events because of their sensitivity to the presence of liquid water in snow and ice. The observed microwave response depends on the sensor measurement frequency. Our hypothesis for this study is that the relatively long wavelength SMAP observations can detect a wider range of surface wetness conditions relative to shorter wavelength microwave observations that attain signal saturation at relatively lower wetness levels and within shallower surface layers. SMAP provides nearly all-weather surface monitoring over all of Antarctica twice daily with morning and evening overpasses at about 40 km spatial resolution. We applied an empirical threshold algorithm using horizontally and vertically polarized microwave brightness temperature differences to detect surface melt events over Antarctica from 2015 through 2020. The results show that the SMAP empirical algorithm can be used to detect melt extent and duration, and the geophysical model-based algorithm can be used to detect snow wetness, which can be used as an indicator of melt intensity. Analysis of the melt seasons between 2015 and 2020 show that the even though the melt extent in 2019–2020 was not as large as during the 2015–2016 melt season, it was significantly more intense, particularity on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.;

publication date

  • November 2, 2021

Date in CU Experts

  • June 30, 2021 7:37 AM

Full Author List

  • Mousavi S; Colliander A; Miller JZ; Kimball JS

author count

  • 4

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