ABSTRACT

The polar ocean’s sea ice cover is an unconventional and challenging geophysical target. Helicopter electromagnetic (HEM) sea-ice thickness mapping is currently limited to 1D interpretation due to traditional procedures and systems. These systems are mainly sensitive to layered structures, ideally set for the widespread flat (level) ice type. Because deformed sea ice (e.g., pressure ridges) is 3D and usually also heterogeneous, ice thickness errors up to 50% can be observed for pressure ridges using 1D approximations for the interpretation of HEM data. We researched a new generation multisensor, airborne sea ice explorer (MAiSIE) to overcome these limitations. Three-dimensional finite-element modeling enabled us to determine that more than one frequency is needed, ideally in the range 1–8 kHz, to improve thickness estimates of grounded sea-ice pressure ridges that are typical of 3D sea ice structures. With the MAiSIE system, we found a new electromagnetic concept based on one multifrequency transmitter loop and a 3C receiver coil triplet with active digital bucking. The relatively small weight of the EM components freed enough payload to include additional scientific sensors, including a cross-track lidar scanner and high-accuracy inertial-navigation system combined with dual-antenna differential GPS. Integrating the 3D ice-surface topography obtained from the lidar with the EM data at frequencies from 500 Hz to 8 kHz in x-, y-, and z-directions, significantly increased the accuracy of sea-ice pressure-ridge geometry derived from HEM data. Initial test flight results over open water showed the proof-of-concept with acceptable sensor drift and receiver sensitivity. Noise levels were relatively high (20–250 parts-per-million) due to unwanted interference, leaving room for optimization. The 20 ppm noise level at 4.1 kHz is sufficient to map level ice thickness with 10 cm precision for sensor altitudes below 13 m.

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