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Quantifying volumetric scattering bias in ICESat-2 and Operation IceBridge altimetry over snow-covered surfaces
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  • Zachary Fair,
  • Mark Flanner,
  • Thomas A Neumann,
  • Carrie Vuyovich,
  • Benjamin E. Smith,
  • Adam Michael Schneider
Zachary Fair
Goddard Space Flight Center

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Mark Flanner
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Thomas A Neumann
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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Carrie Vuyovich
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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Benjamin E. Smith
Un. Washington
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Adam Michael Schneider
University of California, Irvine
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The Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission has collected global surface elevation measurements for over three years. ICESat-2 carries the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter (ATLAS) instrument, which emits laser light at 532 nm, and ice and snow absorb weakly at this wavelength. Previous modeling studies found that melting snow could induce significant bias to altimetry signals, but there is no formal assessment on ICESat-2 acquisitions during the Northern Hemisphere melting season. In this work, we performed two case studies over the Greenland Ice Sheet to quantify volumetric scattering in ICESat-2 signals over snow. Elevation data from ICESat-2 was compared to Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) data to quantify bias. We used snow optical grain sizes derived from ATM and the Next Generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS-NG) to attribute altimetry bias to snowpack properties. For the first case study, the mean optical grain sizes were 340±65 µm (AVIRIS-NG) and 670±420 µm (ATM), which corresponded with a mean altimetry bias of 4.81±1.76 cm in ATM. We observed larger grain sizes for the second case study, with a mean grain size of 910±381 µm and biases of 6.42±1.77 cm (ICESat-2) and 9.82±0.97 cm (ATM). Although these altimetry biases are within the accuracy requirements of the ICESat-2 mission, we cannot rule out more significant errors over coarse-grained snow, particularly during the Northern Hemisphere melting season.