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Proceedings Paper

Estimation of global snow cover using passive microwave data
Author(s): Alfred T. C. Chang; Richard E.J. Kelly; James L. Foster; Dorothy K. Hall
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Paper Abstract

This paper describes an approach to estimate global snow cover using satellite passive microwave data. Snow cover is detected using the high frequency scattering signal from natural microwave radiation, which is observed by passive microwave instruments. Developed for the retrieval of global snow depth and snow water equivalent using Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer EOS (AMSR-E), the algorithm uses passive microwave radiation along with a microwave emission model and a snow grain growth model to estimate snow depth. The microwave emission model is based on the Dense Media Radiative Transfer (DMRT) model that uses the quasi-crystalline approach and sticky particle theory to predict the brightness temperature from a single layered snowpack. The grain growth model is a generic single layer model based on an empirical approach to predict snow grain size evolution with time. Gridding to the 25 km EASE-grid projection, a daily record of Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) snow depth estimates was generated for December 2000 to March 2001. The estimates are tested using ground measurements from two continental-scale river catchments (Nelson River and the Ob River in Russia). This regional-scale testing of the algorithm shows that for passive microwave estimates, the average daily snow depth retrieval standard error between estimated and measured snow depths ranges from 0 cm to 40 cm of point observations. Bias characteristics are different for each basin. A fraction of the error is related to uncertainties about the grain growth initialization states and uncertainties about grain size changes through the winter season that directly affect the parameterization of the snow depth estimation in the DMRT model. Also, the algorithm does not include a correction for forest cover and this effect is clearly observed in the retrieval. Finally, error is also related to scale differences between in situ ground measurements and area-integrated satellite estimates. With AMSR-E data, improvements to snow depth and water equivalent estimates are expected since AMSR-E will have twice the spatial resolution of the SSM/I and will be able to characterize better the subnivean snow environment from an expanded range of microwave frequencies.

Paper Details

Date Published: 30 April 2003
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 4894, Microwave Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and Environment III, (30 April 2003); doi: 10.1117/12.467769
Show Author Affiliations
Alfred T. C. Chang, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Richard E.J. Kelly, Univ. of Maryland/Baltimore County (United States)
James L. Foster, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Dorothy K. Hall, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4894:
Microwave Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and Environment III
Christian D. Kummerow; JingShang Jiang; Seiho Uratuka, Editor(s)

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