Traditional approaches to the direct estimation of snow properties from passive microwave remote sensing have been plagued by limitations such as the tendency of estimates to saturate for moderately deep snowpacks and the effects of mixed land cover within remotely sensed pixels. An alternative approach is to assimilate satellite microwave emission observations directly, which requires embedding an accurate microwave emissions model into a hydrologic prediction scheme, as well as quantitative information of model and observation errors. In this study a coupled snow hydrology [Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC)] and microwave emission [Dense Media Radiative Transfer (DMRT)] model are evaluated using multiscale brightness temperature (TB) measurements from the Cold Land Processes Experiment (CLPX). The ability of VIC to reproduce snowpack properties is shown with the use of snow pit measurements, while TB model predictions are evaluated through comparison with Ground-Based Microwave Radiometer (GBMR), air-craft [Polarimetric Scanning Radiometer (PSR)], and satellite [Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for the Earth Observing System (AMSR-E)] TB measurements. Limitations of the model at the point scale were not as evident when comparing areal estimates. The coupled model was able to reproduce the TB spatial patterns observed by PSR in two of three sites. However, this was mostly due to the presence of relatively dense forest cover. An interesting result occurs when examining the spatial scaling behavior of the higher-resolution errors; the satellite-scale error is well approximated by the mode of the (spatial) histogram of errors at the smaller scale. In addition, TB prediction errors were almost invariant when aggregated to the satellite scale, while forest-cover fractions greater than 30% had a significant effect on TB predictions. ?? 2008 American Meteorological Society.
Additional publication details
Characterization of errors in a coupled snow hydrology-microwave emission model