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A methodologically simple approach to estimate snow depth from spaceborne microwave instruments is described. The scattering signal observed in multifrequency passive microwave data is used to detect snow cover. Wet snow, frozen ground, precipitation, and other anomalous scattering signals are screened using established methods. The results from two different approaches (a simple time and continentwide static approach and a space and time dynamic approach) to estimating snow depth were compared. The static approach, based on radiative transfer calculations, assumes a temporally constant grain size and density. The dynamic approach assumes that snowpack properties are spatially and temporally dynamic and requires two simple empirical models of density and snowpack grain radius evolution, plus a dense media radiative transfer model based on the quasicrystalline approximation and sticky particle theory. To test the approaches, a four-year record of daily snow depth measurements at 71 meteorological stations plus passive microwave data from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager, land cover data and a digital elevation model were used. In addition, testing was performed for a global dataset of over 1000 World Meteorological Organization meteorological stations recording snow depth during the 2000-2001 winter season. When compared with the snow depth data, the new algorithm had an average error of 23 cm for the one-year dataset and 21 cm for the four-year dataset (131% and 94% relative error, respectively). More importantly, the dynamic algorithm tended to underestimate the snow depth less than the static algorithm. This approach will be developed further and implemented for use with the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System aboard Aqua.
Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:41 , Issue: 2 )
Date of Publication: Feb. 2003