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Xi Zhao

Visiting Scholar

Visiting Scholar



Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Estimation of turbulent heat flux over leads using satellite thermal images

Qu, M., X. Pang, X. Zhao, J. Zhang, Q. Ji, and P. Fan, "Estimation of turbulent heat flux over leads using satellite thermal images," Cryosphere, 13, 1565-1582, doi:10.5194/tc-13-1565-2019, 2019.

More Info

4 Jun 2019

Sea ice leads are an important feature in pack ice in the Arctic. Even covered by thin ice, leads can still serve as prime windows for heat exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean, especially in the winter. Lead geometry and distribution in the Arctic have been studied using optical and microwave remote sensing data, but turbulent heat flux over leads has only been measured on-site during a few special expeditions. In this study, we derive turbulent heat flux through leads at different scales using a combination of surface temperature and lead distribution from remote sensing images and meteorological parameters from a reanalysis dataset. First, ice surface temperature (IST) was calculated from Landsat-8 Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) thermal images using a split-window algorithm; then, lead pixels were segmented from colder ice. Heat flux over leads was estimated using two empirical models: bulk aerodynamic formulae and a fetch-limited model with lead width from Landsat-8. Results show that even though the lead area from MODIS is a little larger, the length of leads is underestimated by 72.9% in MODIS data compared to TIRS data due to the inability to resolve small leads. Heat flux estimated from Landsat-8 TIRS data using bulk formulae is 56.70% larger than that from MODIS data. When the fetch-limited model was applied, turbulent heat flux calculated from TIRS data is 32.34% higher than that from bulk formulae. In both cases, small leads accounted for more than a quarter of total heat flux over leads, mainly due to the large area, though the heat flux estimated using the fetch-limited model is 41.39% larger. A greater contribution from small leads can be expected with larger air–ocean temperature differences and stronger winds.

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