In Situ Measurements of Micro-Scale Surface Roughness of Sea Ice

J.S. Paterson, B. Brisco, S. Argus, G. Jones


Surface roughness at the centimetre and millimetre scale is an important factor governing radar backscatter, especially in the case of warm (>-5 degrees C) or highly saline sea ice types. Quantitative measurements of surface roughness are required as input to backscatter models. Several field techniques have been used to quantitatively measure the surface roughness of sea ice. These techniques usually posses at least one of the following obstacles: difficult field operation, expense, poor accuracies or arduous data processing. A prototype portable field instrument called the Surface Roughness Meter has been designed to measure micro-scale surface roughness. The instrument provides measurements of two surface roughness parameters, root mean square height and correlation length. The instrument consists of a 35 mm camera and a flash mounted on a platform. The system illuminates and photographs a rectangle of known size on the surface from a fixed height. The negatives are digitized and the root mean square height and correlation length are calculated and recorded using a PC-based image analysis system in the laboratory. The first sea ice application for the instrument was the Labrador Ice Margin Experiment (LIMEX) 1989. The instrument was used to measure surface roughness of first-year deformed pack ice. The resulting data from LIMEX '89 were digitized and surface roughness statistics were computed using a PC image analysis system. LIMEX '89 Surface Roughness Meter data compared favourably to roughness statistics obtained from LIMEX '87.

Key words: surface roughness, radar backscatter, sea ice, Surface Roughness Meter, root mean square height, correlation length, LIMEX ’89


Mathematical models; Radar; Sea ice; Surface properties; SAR; Labrador Sea

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