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Consistency in the AMSR-E snow products: groundwork for a coupled snowfall and SWE algorithm




Gonzalez, Ryan L., author
Kummerow, Christian, advisor
Liston, Glen, committee member
Chiu, Christine, committee member
Notaros, Branislav, committee member

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Snow is an important wintertime property because it is a source of freshwater, regulates land-atmosphere exchanges, and increases the surface albedo of snow-covered regions. Unfortunately, in-situ observations of both snowfall and snow water equivalent (SWE) are globally sparse and point measurements are not representative of the surrounding area, especially in mountainous regions. The total amount of land covered by snow, which is climatologically important, is fairly straightforward to measure using satellite remote sensing. The total SWE is hydrologically more useful, but significantly more difficult to measure. Accurately measuring snowfall and SWE is an important first step toward a better understanding of the impacts snow has for hydrological and climatological purposes. Satellite passive microwave retrievals of snow offer potential due to consistent overpasses and the capability to make measurements during the day, night, and cloudy conditions. However, passive microwave snow retrievals are less mature than precipitation retrievals and have been an ongoing area of research. Exacerbating the problem, communities that remotely sense snowfall and SWE from passive microwave sensors have historically operated independently while the accuracy of the products has suffered because of the physical and radiometric dependency between the two. In this study, we assessed the relationship between the Northern Hemisphere snowfall and SWE products from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - Earth Observing System (AMSR-E). This assessment provides insight into regimes that can be used as a starting point for future improvements using coupled snowfall and SWE algorithm. SnowModel, a physically-based snow evolution modeling system driven by the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2) reanalysis, was employed to consistently compare snowfall and SWE by accounting for snow evolution. SnowModel has the ability to assimilate observed SWE values to scale the amount of snow that must have fallen to match the observed SWE. Assimilation was performed using AMSR-E, Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC) Snow Analysis, and Snow Data Assimilation System (SNODAS) SWE to infer the required snowfall for each dataset. Observed AMSR-E snowfall and SWE were then compared to the MERRA-2 snowfall and SnowModel-produced SWE as well as SNODAS and CMC inferred snowfall and observed SWE. Results from the study showed significantly different snowfall and SWE bias patterns observed by AMSR-E. Specifically, snowfall was underestimated nearly globally and SWE had pronounced regions of over and underestimation. Snowfall and SWE biases were found to differ as a function of surface temperature, snow class, and elevation.


2019 Fall.
Includes bibliographical references.

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remote sensing
snow water equivalent


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