Estimating alpine snow depth by combining multifrequency passive radiance observations with ensemble snowpack modeling

Kim, Rhae Sung ; Durand, Michael ; Li, Dongyue ; Baldo, Elisabeth ; Margulis, Steven A. ; Dumont, Marie ; Morin, Samuel

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<p align="justify">This paper presents a physically-based snow depth retrieval algorithm adapted for deep mountainous snowpack and airborne multifrequency (10.7, 18.7, 37.0 and 89.0 GHz) passive microwave (PM) radiance observations from a single flight. The algorithm employs a single forecast-analysis cycle of a traditional sequential assimilation scheme. It uses an ensemble of multi-layer snowpack model runs to resolve snow microstructure and melt-refreeze crusts, and microwave radiative transfer models to relate snow properties to microwave measurements. Snow depth was retrieved at a 120 m spatial resolution over three 1 km2 Intensive Study Areas (ISA) within the Rabbit Ears Meso-Cell Study Area (MSA) from the NASA Cold Land Processes Experiment (CLPX) in Colorado (United States) for one date in February 2003. When evaluated against in situ observations, root mean square error (RMSE) of the snow depth from the assimilation was 13.3 cm for areas with low (<5%) forest cover, which was a reduction of 48% in the RMSE compared with the modeled snow depth when the PM observations were not assimilated, indicating a ~5% relative error of the posterior snow depth with respect to the average snow depth (200 cm) measured at these pixels. For pixels with forest cover ranging from 5 to 15% and 15-30%, results were improved (R2 increased from 0.65 to 0.71 and from 0 to 0.38, respectively) by introducing a forest radiative transfer model during the assimilation.</p>
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