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Ron Kwok

Research Scientist/Engineer - Principal



Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Assessment of ICESat-2 sea ice surface classification with Sentinel-2 imagery: Implications for freeboard and new estimates of lead and floe geometry

Petty, A.A., M. Bagnardi, N.T. Kurtz, R. Tilling, S. Fons, T. Armitage, C. Horvat, and R. Kwok, "Assessment of ICESat-2 sea ice surface classification with Sentinel-2 imagery: Implications for freeboard and new estimates of lead and floe geometry," Earth Space Sci., 8, doi:10.1029/2020EA001491, 2021.

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1 Mar 2021

NASA's Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite‐2 (ICESat‐2) mission launched in September 2018 and is now providing high‐resolution surface elevation profiling across the entire globe, including the sea ice cover of the Arctic and Southern Oceans. For sea ice applications, successfully discriminating returns between sea ice and open water is key for accurately determining freeboard (the extension of sea ice above local sea level) and new information regarding the geometry of sea ice floes and leads. We take advantage of near‐coincident optical imagery obtained from the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel‐2 (S‐2) satellite over the Western Weddell Sea of the Southern Ocean in March 2019 and the Lincoln Sea of the Arctic Ocean in May 2019 to evaluate the surface classification scheme in the ICESat‐2 ATL07 and ATL10 sea ice products. We find a high level of agreement between the ATL07 (specular) lead classification and visible leads in the S‐2 imagery in these two coincident images across all six ICESat‐2 beams, increasing our confidence in the freeboard products and deriving new estimates of the sea ice state. The S‐2 overlays provide additional, albeit limited, evidence of the misclassification of dark leads due to clouds. Dark leads are no longer used to derive sea surface and thus freeboard as of the third release (r003) of the ICESat‐2 sea ice products. We show estimates of lead fraction and more preliminary estimates of chord length (a proxy for floe size) using two metrics for classifying sea surface (lead) segments across both the Arctic and Southern Ocean for the first winter season of data collection.

Refining the sea surface identification approach for determining freeboards in the ICESat-2 sea ice products

Kwok, R., A.A. Petty, M. Bagnardi, N.T. Kurtz, G.F. Cunningham, A. Ivanoff, and S. Kacimi, "Refining the sea surface identification approach for determining freeboards in the ICESat-2 sea ice products," Cryosphere, 15, 821-833, doi:10.5194/tc-15-821-2021, 2021.

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18 Feb 2021

In Release 001 and 002 of the ICESat-2 sea ice products, candidate height segments used to estimate the reference sea surface height for freeboard calculations included two surface types: specular and smooth dark leads. We found that the uncorrected photon rates, used as proxies of surface reflectance, are attenuated due to clouds resulting in the potential misclassification of sea ice as dark leads, biasing the reference sea surface height relative to those derived from the more reliable specular returns. This results in higher reference sea surface heights and lower estimated ice freeboards. The resolution of available cloud flags from the ICESat-2 atmosphere data product is too coarse to provide useful filtering at the lead segment scale. In Release 003, we have modified the surface-reference-finding algorithm so that only specular leads are used. The consequence of this change can be seen in the composites of mean freeboard of the Arctic and Southern oceans. Broadly, coverages have decreased by ∼10–20 % because there are fewer leads (by excluding the dark leads), and the composite means have increased by 0–4 cm because of the use of more consistent specular leads.

The cyclonic mode of Arctic Ocean circulation

Morison, J., R. Kwok, S. Dickinson, R. Andersen, C. Peralta-Ferriz, D. Morison, I. Rigor, S. Dewey, and J. Guthrie, "The cyclonic mode of Arctic Ocean circulation," J. Phys. Oceanogr., EOR, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-20-0190.1, 2021.

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20 Jan 2021

Arctic Ocean surface circulation change should not be viewed as the strength of the anticyclonic Beaufort Gyre. While the Beaufort Gyre is a dominant feature of average Arctic Ocean surface circulation, empirical orthogonal function analysis of dynamic height (1950–1989) and satellite altimetry-derived dynamic ocean topography (2004–-2019) show the primary pattern of variability in its cyclonic mode is dominated by a depression of the sea surface and cyclonic surface circulation on the Russian side of the Arctic Ocean. Changes in surface circulation after AO maxima in 1989 and 2007–08 and after an AO minimum in 2010, indicate the cyclonic mode is forced by the Arctic Oscillation (AO) with a lag of about one year. Associated with a one standard deviation increase in the average AO starting in the early 1990s, Arctic Ocean surface circulation underwent a cyclonic shift evidenced by increased spatial-average vorticity. Under increased AO, the cyclonic mode complex also includes increased export of sea ice and near-surface freshwater, a changed path of Eurasian runoff, a freshened Beaufort Sea, and weakened cold halocline layer that insulates sea ice from Atlantic water heat, an impact compounded by increased Atlantic Water inflow and cyclonic circulation at depth. The cyclonic mode's connection with the AO is important because the AO is a major global scale climate index predicted to increase with global warming. Given the present bias in concentration of in situ measurements in the Beaufort Gyre and Transpolar Drift, a coordinated effort should be made to better observe the cyclonic mode.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center