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Proceedings Paper

Remote sensing of snow cover and snow water equivalent for the historic February snowstorms in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area during February 2010
Author(s): James L. Foster; Dorothy Hall; George Riggs
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Paper Abstract

The unprecedented snowfall during early February 2010 in the Baltimore/Washington area provided a unique opportunity to map, monitor and measure snowfall, snow cover extent, snow water equivalent (SWE), and snow melt using a suite of remote sensing instruments. Because snow cover in the Middle Atlantic area of the United States is in most years patchy and a true multi-layered snow pack is rarely established, utilizing a remote sensing approach to observe snow parameters is more challenging than in regions where falling snow and snow packs are more reliable. The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) was used to assess SWE and the onset of melt. Although the passive microwave signatures illustrated in this study are clearly related to snow, it is not straightforward whether or not the signatures are due to variations in SWE or to snowpack metamorphism or to a combination of both. This study shows that the SWE algorithm was affected by the high variability of snowfall intensity and accumulation as well as by the complex surface features in the Baltimore/Washington area. On the two days when intense snowfalls occurred, February 6 and 10, 2010, retrievals of SWE were compromised. This was likely a result of thermal emission from water droplets in low-level clouds within portions of the storm, which acted to increase AMSR-E Tbs, thereby rendering minimal or zero values for SWE. The presence of such clouds strongly impacts the sensitivity of estimating SWE using radiometric measurements near 19 and 37 GHz. Glaze or icy layers within and on the surface of the snowpack served to increase scattering, thus lowering Tb and boosting the retrieved SWE values, resulting in an overestimation of SWE, first in southern portions of the study area and then farther north as the month of February progressed.

Paper Details

Date Published: 4 October 2011
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 8174, Remote Sensing for Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Hydrology XIII, 817402 (4 October 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.896002
Show Author Affiliations
James L. Foster, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Dorothy Hall, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
George Riggs, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
SSAI (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8174:
Remote Sensing for Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Hydrology XIII
Christopher M. U. Neale; Antonino Maltese, Editor(s)

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