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A physical model to determine snowfall over land by microwave radiometry

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4 Author(s)
G. M. Skofronick-Jackson ; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA ; Min-Jeong Kim ; J. A. Weinman ; Dong-Eon Chang

Falling snow is an important component of global precipitation in extratropical regions. This paper describes the methodology and results of physically based retrievals of snow falling over land surfaces. Because microwave brightness temperatures emitted by snow-covered surfaces are highly variable, precipitating snow above such surfaces is difficult to observe using window channels that occur at low frequencies (ν<100 GHz). Furthermore, at frequencies ν≤37 GHz, sensitivity to liquid hydrometeors is dominant. These problems are mitigated at high frequencies (ν>100 GHz) where water vapor screens the surface emission, and sensitivity to frozen hydrometeors is significant. However, the scattering effect of snowfall in the atmosphere at those higher frequencies is also impacted by water vapor in the upper atmosphere. The theory of scattering by randomly oriented dry snow particles at high microwave frequencies appears to be better described by regarding snow as a concatenation of "equivalent" ice spheres rather than as a sphere with the effective dielectric constant of an air-ice mixture. An equivalent sphere snow scattering model was validated against high-frequency attenuation measurements. Satellite-based high-frequency observations from an Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU-B) instrument during the March 5-6, 2001 New England blizzard were used to retrieve snowfall over land. Vertical distributions of snow, temperature, and relative humidity profiles were derived from the Mesoscale Model (MM5) cloud model. Those data were applied and modified in a radiative transfer model that derived brightness temperatures consistent with the AMSU-B observations. The retrieved snowfall distribution was validated with radar reflectivity measurements obtained from a ground-based radar network.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:42 ,  Issue: 5 )