The surface of the sea ice cover plays a key role in controlling the exchanges of heat, momentum and humidity between the atmosphere and the ocean underneath it. Surface albedo (the ability to reflect incoming solar radiation) controls the former with whiter surfaces (cold bare or snow covered sea ice) reflecting more of the incoming solar radiation than darker surface (melt covered or ice free), while surface roughness modifies the turbulent exchanges at the air – ice interface with rougher ice (more deformed, fragmented) increasing the friction and hence turbulence relatively to smoother ice (first year ice, level ice). Ice roughness controls the distribution of melt ponds and snow layers at the ice surface.
In addition to its direct impact on the climate of the polar regions sea ice roughness also modifies our ability to retrieve the freeboard elevation from radar and laser altimetry and therefore potentially if not accounted for correctly can be a bias of our estimates of the total sea ice thickness in the polar regions. On the other hand if treated with an adequate physical model the radar return pulses form CryoSat-2 can be used to derive the statistical distribution of the sea ice topography from which they are re-emitted. In the same way sea ice surfaces have characteristic angular signatures that can be resolved with the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) satellite. Your role will be to develop, validate and merge this two new surface roughness products.