Campus Map

Melinda Webster

Research Scientist/Engineer - Principal





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Oceanography, University of Washington, 2010

M.S. Oceanography, University of Washington, 2013

Ph.D. Oceanography, University of Washington, 2016


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Evolution of the microstructure and reflectance of the surface scattering layer on melting, level Arctic sea ice

Macfarlane, A.R., R. Dadic, M.M. Smith, B. Light, M. Nicolaus, H. Henna-Reetta, M. Webster, F. Linhardt, S. Hammerle, and M. Schneebeli, "Evolution of the microstructure and reflectance of the surface scattering layer on melting, level Arctic sea ice," Elem. Sci. Anth., 11, doi:10.1525/elementa.2022.00103, 2024.

More Info

6 Apr 2024

The microstructure of the uppermost portions of a melting Arctic sea ice cover has a disproportionately large influence on how incident sunlight is reflected and absorbed in the ice/ocean system. The surface scattering layer (SSL) effectively backscatters solar radiation and keeps the surface albedo of melting ice relatively high compared to ice with the SSL manually removed. Measurements of albedo provide information on how incoming shortwave radiation is partitioned by the SSL and have been pivotal to improving climate model parameterizations. However, the relationship between the physical and optical properties of the SSL is still poorly constrained. Until now, radiative transfer models have been the only way to infer the microstructure of the SSL. During the MOSAiC expedition of 2019–2020, we took samples and, for the first time, directly measured the microstructure of the SSL on bare sea ice using X-ray micro-computed tomography. We show that the SSL has a highly anisotropic, coarse, and porous structure, with a small optical diameter and density at the surface, increasing with depth. As the melting surface ablates, the SSL regenerates, maintaining some aspects of its microstructure throughout the melt season. We used the microstructure measurements with a radiative transfer model to improve our understanding of the relationship between physical properties and optical properties at 850 nm wavelength. When the microstructure is used as model input, we see a 10–15% overestimation of the reflectance at 850 nm. This comparison suggests that either a) spatial variability at the meter scale is important for the two in situ optical measurements and therefore a larger sample size is needed to represent the microstructure or b) future work should investigate either i) using a ray-tracing approach instead of explicitly solving the radiative transfer equation or ii) using a more appropriate radiative transfer model.

Inter-comparison of melt pond products from optical satellite imagery

Lee, S., J. Stroeve, M. Webster, N. Fuchs, and D.K. Perovich, "Inter-comparison of melt pond products from optical satellite imagery," Remote Sens. Environ., 301, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2023.113920, 2024.

More Info

1 Feb 2024

Given the importance that melt ponds have on the energy balance of summer sea ice, there have been several efforts to develop pan-Arctic datasets using satellite data. Here we intercompare three melt pond data sets that rely on multi-frequency optical satellite data. Early in the melt season, the three data sets have similar spatial patterns in melt pond fraction, but this agreement weakens as the melt season progresses despite relatively high interannual correlations in pond fractions between the data products. Most of the data sets do not exhibit trends towards increased melt pond fractions from 2002 to 2011 despite overall Arctic warming and earlier melt onset. Further comparisons are made against higher resolution optical data to assess relative accuracy. These comparisons reveal the challenges in retrieving melt ponds from coarse resolution satellite data, and the need to better discriminate between leads, small open water areas and melt ponds. Finally, we assess melt pond data sets as a function of ice type and how well they correlate with surface albedo. As expected, melt pond fractions are negatively correlated with surface albedo, though the strength of the correlation varies across products and regions. Overall, first-year ice has larger melt pond fractions than multi-year ice.

The importance of sub-meter-scale snow roughness on conductive heat flux of Arctic sea ice

Clemens-Sewall, D., C. Polashenski, D. Perovich, and M.A. Webster, "The importance of sub-meter-scale snow roughness on conductive heat flux of Arctic sea ice," J. Glaciol., EOR, doi:10.1017/jog.2023.105, 2024.

More Info

4 Jan 2024

The conductive heat flux through the snow and ice is a critical component of the mass and energy budgets in the Arctic sea ice system. We use high horizontal resolution (3–15 cm) measurements of snow topography to explore the impacts of sub-meter-scale snow surface roughness on heat flux as simulated by the Finite Element method. Simulating horizontal heat flux in a variable snow cover modestly increases the total simulated heat flux. With horizontal heat flux, as opposed to simple 1D-vertical heat flux modeling, the simulated heat flux is 10% greater than that for uniform snow with the same mean snow thickness for a 31.5 x 21 m region of sea ice (the largest region we studied). Vertical-only (1D) heat flux simulates just a 6% increase for the same region. However, this is highly dependent on observation resolution. Had we measured the snow cover at 1 m horizontal spacing or greater, simulating horizontal heat flux would not have changed the net heat flux from that simulated with vertical-only heat flux. These findings suggest that measuring and modeling snow roughness at sub-meter horizontal scales may be necessary to accurately represent horizontal heat flux on level Arctic sea ice.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center