The impact of early-summer snow properties on Antarctic landfast sea-ice X-band backscatter

Stephan Paul, Sascha Willmes, Mario Hoppmann, Priska A. Hunkeler, Christine Wesche, Marcel Nicolaus, Günther Heinemann, Ralph Timmermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Up to now, snow cover on Antarctic sea ice and its impact on radar backscatter, particularly after the onset of freeze/thaw processes, are not well understood. Here we present a combined analysis of in situ observations of snow properties from the landfast sea ice in Atka Bay, Antarctica, and high-resolution TerraSAR-X backscatter data, for the transition from austral spring (November 2012) to summer (January 2013). The physical changes in the seasonal snow cover during that time are reflected in the evolution of TerraSAR-X backscatter. We are able to explain 76-93% of the spatio-temporal variability of the TerraSAR-X backscatter signal with up to four snowpack parameters with a root-mean-squared error of 0.87-1.62 dB, using a simple multiple linear model. Over the complete study, and especially after the onset of early-melt processes and freeze/thaw cycles, the majority of variability in the backscatter is influenced by changes in snow/ice interface temperature, snow depth and top-layer grain size. This suggests it may be possible to retrieve snow physical properties over Antarctic sea ice from X-band SAR backscatter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-273
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number69
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Remote sensing
  • Sea ice
  • Snow
  • Snow metamorphosis
  • Snow physics


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