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Inland and Near-Shore Water Profiles Derived from the High-Altitude Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL)The Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) on the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2) mission is a six beam, low energy, high repetition rate, 532-nanometer laser transmitter with photon counting detectors. Although designed primarily for detecting height changes in ice caps, sea ice, and vegetation, the polar-orbiting satellite will observe global surface water during its designed three-year life span, including inland waterbodies, coasts, and open oceans. In preparation for the mission, an ICESat-2 prototype, the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL), was built and flown on high-altitude aircraft experiments over a range of inland and near-shore targets. The purpose was to test the ATLAS concept and to provide a database for developing an algorithm that detects along track surface water height and light penetration under a range of atmospheric and water conditions. The current analysis examines the data sets of three MABEL transects observed from 20 kilometers above ground of coastal and inland waters conducted in 2012 and 2013. Transects ranged from about 2 to 12 kilometers in length and included the middle Chesapeake Bay, the near-shore Atlantic coast at Virginia Beach, and Lake Mead. Results indicate MABEL's high capability for retrieving surface water height statistics with a mean height precision ofapproximately 5-7 centimeters per 100-meter segment length. Profiles of attenuated subsurface backscatter, characterized using a Signal to Background Ratio written in Log10 base, or LSBR (sub 0), were observed over a range of 1.3 to 9.3 meters, depending on water clarity and atmospheric background. Results indicate that observable penetration depth, although primarily dependent on water properties, was greatest when the solar background rate was low. Near-shore bottom reflectance was detected only at the Lake Mead site down to a maximum of 10 meters under a clear night sky and low turbidity of approximately 1.6 Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU). The overall results suggest that the feasibility of retrieving operational surface water height statistics from space-based photon counting systems such as ATLAS is very high for resolutions down to about 100 meters, even in partly cloudy conditions. The capability to observe subsurface backscatterprofiles is achievable but requires much longer transects of several hundreds of meters.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Jasinski, Michael F.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Stoll, Jeremy D.
(Science Systems and Applications, Inc. Lanham, MD, United States)
Cook, William B.
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration College Park, MD, United States)
Ondrusek, Michael
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration College Park, MD, United States)
Stengel, Eric
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration College Park, MD, United States)
Brunt, Kelly
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
April 20, 2017
Publication Date
December 7, 2016
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Coastal Research
Publisher: Coastal Education and Research Foundation
Volume: 32
Issue: Special 76
ISSN: 0749-0208
e-ISSN: 1551-5036
Subject Category
Earth Resources And Remote Sensing
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
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