Melt ponds on the Arctic sea ice affect the albedo, mass balance and heat balance of the ice by translating the increase of air temperature into drastic and rapid surface type changes. They introduce a positive feedback within the sea ice albedo feedback loop, thus facilitating further ice melt. In the context of changing Arctic climate, knowledge of melt pond fraction, its spatial distribution and the length of the melt season is required to reflect and predict the role of the sea ice cover in the radiative balance of the region.

The temporal dynamics of melt can be subdivided into four stages (Eicken et al., 2002):

  1. Melt onset: widespread ponding and lateral melt water flow.
  2. Drainage: both the surface albedo and melt pond fraction decrease due to removal of snow cover and due to pond drainage.
  3. Melt evolution: the meltwater penetrates deeper into the ice, the pond coverage continues to evolve and melt pond fraction to grow.
  4. Freeze-up: surface albedo is still affected by the now over-frozen ponds.

The melt pond fraction during each of these stages, their duration and the date of their onset/end are specific to sea ice type and can provide a lot of information on the state of the sea ice and its change. A satellite retrieval of the melt pond fraction and albedo allows to observe the melt evolution and how it is reflected in the surface optical properties throughout the whole Arctic summer.

The current dataset consists of daily averages of the melt pond fraction and broadband albedo (see example figure above) for May-September 2002-2011 retrieved from MERIS (Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) swath Level 1b data over the ice-covered Arctic Ocean using the MPD retrieval (Zege et al., 2015). The data is gridded on a 12.5km polar stereographic grid. The broadband sea ice albedo has been calculated as an average of the six spectral albedo values at 400–900 nm in steps of 100 nm. The melt pond area fraction is retrieved via inversion of a forward model (Malinka et al., 2016). The MPD retrieval has been validated against field, ship-based and airborne measurements (Istomina et al., 2015a). Case studies and weekly trends are presented by Istomina et al. (2015b).

Daily average of broadband albedo and melt pond fraction for the 17th of June, 2011. The onset of melt is visible at 70°N as increase in melt pond fraction and decrease of surface broadband albedo.

Data Archive

All data can be found in the Data Archive. To quickly browse the dataset, please have a look at the Data Browser.

Citation

When referring to the data, please include the EU Porject SIDARUS in the acknowledgements and cite the following publication:

Istomina, L., Heygster, G., Huntemann, M., Schwarz, P., Birnbaum, G., Scharien, R., Polashenski, C., Perovich, D., Zege, E., Malinka, A., Prikhach, A., and Katsev, I.: Melt pond fraction and spectral sea ice albedo retrieval from MERIS data – Part 1: Validation against in situ, aerial, and ship cruise data, The Cryosphere, 9, 1551-1566, doi:10.5194/tc-9-1551-2015, 2015.

Contact

For more details on the melt pond fraction and albedo data, please contact Larysa Istomina.

References

Zege, E., Malinka, A., Katsev, I., Prikhach, A., Heygster, G., Istomina, L., Birnbaum, G., and Schwarz, P.: Algorithm to retrieve the melt pond fraction and the spectral albedo of Arctic summer ice from satellite optical data, Remote Sens. Environ., 163, 153-164, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2015.03.012, 2015.

Istomina, L., Heygster, G., Huntemann, M., Schwarz, P., Birnbaum, G., Scharien, R., Polashenski, C., Perovich, D., Zege, E., Malinka, A., Prikhach, A., and Katsev, I.: Melt pond fraction and spectral sea ice albedo retrieval from MERIS data – Part 1: Validation against in situ, aerial, and ship cruise data, The Cryosphere, 9, 1551-1566, doi:10.5194/tc-9-1551-2015, 2015a.

Istomina, L., Heygster, G., Huntemann, M., Marks, H., Melsheimer, C., Zege, E., Malinka, A., Prikhach, A., and Katsev, I.: Melt pond fraction and spectral sea ice albedo retrieval from MERIS data – Part 2: Case studies and trends of sea ice albedo and melt ponds in the Arctic for years 2002–2011, The Cryosphere, 9, 1567-1578, doi:10.5194/tc-9-1567-2015, 2015b.

Malinka, A., Zege, E., Heygster, G., Istomina, L.: Reflective properties of white sea ice and snow. The Cryosphere, 10, 2541-2557, doi:10.5194/tc-10-2541-2016, 2016.

Eicken, H., Krouse, H. R., Kadko, D., and Perovich, D. K.: Tracer studies of pathways and rates of meltwater transport through Arctic summer sea ice, J. Geophys. Res., 107, 8046, doi:10.1029/2000JC000583, 2002.