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Open AccessArticle

The Detection and Characterization of Arctic Sea Ice Leads with Satellite Imagers

Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Madison, WI 53706, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(5), 521;
Received: 29 January 2019 / Revised: 15 February 2019 / Accepted: 27 February 2019 / Published: 4 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Satellite Derived Global Ocean Product Validation/Evaluation)
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Sea ice leads (fractures) play a critical role in the exchange of mass and energy between the ocean and atmosphere in the polar regions. The thinning of Arctic sea ice over the last few decades will likely result in changes in lead distributions, so monitoring their characteristics is increasingly important. Here we present a methodology to detect and characterize sea ice leads using satellite imager thermal infrared window channels. A thermal contrast method is first used to identify possible sea ice lead pixels, then a number of geometric and image analysis tests are applied to build a subset of positively identified leads. Finally, characteristics such as width, length and orientation are derived. This methodology is applied to Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) observations for the months of January through April over the period of 2003 to 2018. The algorithm results are compared to other satellite estimates of lead distribution. Lead coverage maps and statistics over the Arctic illustrate spatial and temporal lead patterns. View Full-Text
Keywords: leads; sea ice; MODIS leads; sea ice; MODIS

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Hoffman, J.P.; Ackerman, S.A.; Liu, Y.; Key, J.R. The Detection and Characterization of Arctic Sea Ice Leads with Satellite Imagers. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 521.

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