Investigations into Frost Flower Physical Characteristics and the C-Band Scattering Response

Dustin Isleifson*, Ryan J. Galley, Nariman Firoozy, Jack C. Landy, David G. Barber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
274 Downloads (Pure)


A dedicated study on the physical characteristics and C-band scattering response of frost-flower-covered sea ice was performed in an artificial sea ice mesocosm over a 36-h period in January 2017. Meteorological conditions were observed and recorded automatically at the facility when the sea ice grew and frost flowers formed while the C-band scattering measurements were conducted continuously over a range of incidence angles. Surface roughness was characterized using a LiDAR. During the experiment, frost flowers did not initially form on the extremely smooth ice surface even though suitable meteorological conditions prevailed during their development (low air temperature, low near-surface wind speed, and high near-surface relative humidity). This provides evidence that both the presence of (i) liquid brine at the surface and (ii) raised nodules as nucleation points are required to enable frost flower initiation. As the ice thickened, we observed that raised nodules gradually appeared, frost flowers formed, and flowers subsequently spread to cover the surface over a six-hour period. In contrast to previous experiments, the frost flower layer did not become visibly saturated with liquid brine. The C-band scattering measurements exhibited increases as high as 14.8 dB (vertical polarization) in response to the frost flower formation with low incidence angles (i.e., 25°) showing the largest dynamic range. Co-polarization ratios responded to the physical and thermodynamic changes associated with the frost flower formation process. Our results indicate that brine expulsion at the sea ice surface and frost flower salination can have substantial temporal variability, which can be detected by scatterometer time-series measurements. This work contributes towards the operational satellite image interpretation for Arctic waters by improving our understanding of the highly variable C-band microwave scattering properties of young sea ice types.

Original languageEnglish
Article number991
Number of pages16
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number7
Early online date22 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Arctic
  • Frost flowers
  • LiDAR
  • Microwave
  • NRCS
  • Radar
  • Scatterometer
  • Sea ice
  • Surface roughness


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigations into Frost Flower Physical Characteristics and the C-Band Scattering Response'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this