Wind-Wave Attenuation in Arctic Sea Ice: A Discussion of Remote Sensing Capabilities

Fabrice Collard, Louis Marié, Frédéric Nouguier, Marcel Kleinherenbrink, Frithjof Ehlers, Fabrice Ardhuin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Wind-generated waves strongly interact with sea ice and impact air-sea exchanges, operations at sea, and marine life. Unfortunately, the dissipation of wave energy is not well quantified and its possible effect on upper ocean mixing and ice drift is still mysterious. As the Arctic is opening up and wave energy increases, the limited amount of in situ observations is a clear limitation to our scientific understanding. Both radar and optical remote sensing has revealed the frequent presence of waves in ice, and could be used more systematically to investigate wave-ice interactions. Here we show that, in cloud-free conditions, Sentinel-2 images exhibit brightness modulations in ice-covered water, consistent with the presence of waves measured a few hours later by the ICESat-2 laser altimeter. We show that a full-focus SAR processing of Sentinel-3 radar altimeter data also reveals the presence and wavelengths of waves in sea ice, within minutes of Sentinel-2 imagery. The SWIM instrument on CFOSAT is another source of quantitative evidence for the direction and wavelengths of waves in ice, when ice conditions are spatially homogeneous. In the presence of sea ice, a quantitative wave height measurement method is not yet available for all-weather near-nadir radar instruments such as altimeters and SWIM. However, their systematic colocation with optical instruments on Sentinel-2 and ICESat-2, which are less frequently able to observe waves in sea ice, may provide the empirical transfer functions needed to interpret and calibrate the radar data, greatly expanding the available data on wave-ice interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JC018654
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • remote sensing
  • sea ice
  • wind waves


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