Lake and River Ice Investigations in Northern Manitoba Using Airborne SAR Imagery


  • Robert Leconte
  • P. David Klassen



Aerial surveys, Ice cover, Lake ice, Mathematical models, River ice, SAR, Burntwood River region, Manitoba, Northern


Multichannel airborne SAR data were collected over northern Manitoba in April 1989 and January 1990. During the week of the SAR flights, several reconnaissance helicopter flights were undertaken, and ground calibration sites were visited to collect ice, snow, and water data. A total of six SAR image passes were flown in April 1989 and seven in January 1990, in order to collect a data set with numerous incidence angle, frequency, polarization, and look direction combinations. The data have been qualitatively assessed, with specific emphasis on C-band horizontally polarized imagery - the proposed SAR configuration for Radarsat. Results of the analysis have shown that airborne SAR can be used to identify various freshwater ice features, such as juxtaposition ice, refrozen slush, river ice runs, and lake ice. Open water leads were also successfully identified. A careful interpretation of the airborne SAR imagery in conjunction with the ground truth data has shown that the unusually bright returns characterizing the Burntwood River and the west portion of Split Lake were caused by a layer of refrozen slush that was generated during the initial formation of the ice cover. Although the results reported here focused exclusively on a qualitative analysis of C-HH data, preliminary analysis of the digital data suggests that changes in frequency and polarization produce measurable differences and can be used to develop classification algorithms for freshwater ice.

Key words: synthetic aperture radar, fresh water ice