Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

Microwave Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and Environment IV


The International Society for Optical Engineering

Publication Date



SPIE Proceedings Volume 5654

First Page


Last Page



Landscape transitions between seasonally frozen and thawed conditions occur each year over roughly 50 million square kilometers of Earth's Northern Hemisphere. These realtively abrupt transitions represent the closest analog to a biospheric and hydrologic on/off switch existing in nature, affecting surface meteorological conditions, ecological trace gas dynamics, energy exchange and hydrologic activity profoundly. We utilize time series satellite-borne microwave remote sensing measurements from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) to examine spatial and temporal variability in seasonal freeze/thaw cycles for the pan-Arctic basin and Alaska. Regional measurements of spring thaw timing are derived using daily brightness temperature measurements from the 19 GHz, horizontally polarized channel, spearately for overpasses with 6 AM and 6 PM equatorial crossing times. Spatial and temporal patterns in regional freeze/thaw dynamics show distinct differences between North Americ and Eurasia, and boreal forest and Arctic tundra biomes. Annual anomalies in the timing of thawing in spring also correspond closely to seasonal atmospheric CO2 concentration anomalies derived from NOAA CMDL arctic and subarctic monitoring stations. Classification differences between AM and PM overpass data average approximately 5 days for the region, through both appear to be effective surrogates for monitoring annual growing seasons at high latitudes.



Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering. This volume edited by Gail Skofronick Jackson and Seiho Uratsuka.


© 2004 SPIE