Sea Ice Concentration Estimation: Using Passive Microwave and SAR Data With a U-Net and Curriculum Learning

TitleSea Ice Concentration Estimation: Using Passive Microwave and SAR Data With a U-Net and Curriculum Learning
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsClausi, D. A., K. Radhakrishnan, and A. K. Scott
JournalIEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing
Pagination5339 - 5351

Ice concentration estimates are typically acquired from algorithms using passive microwave satellite data, and from image analysis charts, but these have limitations. Estimates acquired from passive microwave data have coarse spatial resolution, may have errors due to atmospheric contamination, and often perform poorly in marginal ice zones. Image analysis charts are not as precise, subject to analyst interpretation, and only available over specific geographic areas. We have implemented a U-net with synthetic aperture radar images as inputs and use ice concentration estimates retrieved from passive microwave data as training labels. The U-net, due to not being sensitive to patch size, is shown to be an improvement over previous work with convolutional neural networks that use fully connected layers at the output. Data augmentation and an L1 loss function were applied along with a novel training scheme that leverages curriculum learning. In this training scheme, the model is first trained with samples from open water and consolidated ice regions before incorporating samples from marginal ice regions. In a tenfold cross validation experiment, we achieve 3-4% mean absolute error comparing to estimates using passive microwave data and observe curriculum learning models having more stable training. Predictions on four with-held SAR scenes with difficult ice conditions were evaluated with image analysis charts. A mean absolute error of 7.18% is achieved, which is lower than errors associated with passive microwave data alone. Qualitative improvements in marginal ice zone estimates are achieved, while still preserving smooth consolidated ice regions, and openings in ice cover.