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Assessment of CryoSat-2 interferometric and non-interferometric SAR altimetry over ice sheets

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/09/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Advances in Space Research
Issue number6
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)1281-1291
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date6/12/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The launch of CryoSat-2 heralded a new era of interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar altimetry over the Polar Ice Sheets. The mission's novel SAR interferometric (SARIn) mode of operation has enabled monitoring of rapidly changing coastal regions, which had been challenging for previous low resolution altimeters. Given the growing requirement to continue the 25-year altimeter record, there is now a need to assess the differences between existing SAR and SARIn altimeter datasets, with a view to understanding the impact on ice sheet retrievals of the different radar hardware and processing methodologies. Uniquely, CryoSat-2 data can be processed both with and without interferometric information, offering the opportunity to directly compare the SAR and SARIn products generated by the current ground segment. Here, we provide a first comparison of these Level-2 datasets, and evaluate their capacity to measure ice sheet elevation and elevation change. We find that the current interferometric product has substantially improved precision, accuracy and coverage compared to its non-interferometric counterpart, yielding a ∼35% improvement in the root-mean-square-difference (RMSD) of elevations recorded at orbital cross-overs, and a ∼30% lower RMSD of elevation rates relative to Operation IceBridge airborne altimeter measurements. This analysis demonstrates the value that the interferometer adds to the current CryoSat-2 configuration, and highlights the importance for non-interferometric SAR Level-2 processing of the auxiliary data used to identify the location of the echoing point. These results provide a benchmark of the relative performance of the Level-2 interferometric and non-interferometric products currently produced by the ground segment, which will help to inform the design and implementation of a future polar radar altimeter mission.