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Estimation of snow depth from passive microwave brightness temperature data in forest regions of northeast China

Che, Tao, Dai, Liyun, Zheng, Xingming, Li, Xiaofeng, Zhao, Kai
Remote sensing of environment 2016 v.183 pp. 334-349
algorithms, field experimentation, forests, models, radiative transfer, remote sensing, satellites, snow, snowpack, spatial data, temperature, water management, China
Snow depth is an important factor in water resources management in Northeast China. Forest covers 40% of Northeast China, and the presence of forests influences the accuracy of snow depth retrievals from passive microwave remote sensing data. An optimal iteration method was used to retrieve the forest transmissivities at 18 and 36GHz based on the snow and forest microwave radiative transfer models and the snow properties measured in field experiments. The transmissivities at 18 and 36GHz are 0.895 and 0.656 in the horizontal polarization, and 0.821 and 0.615 in the vertical polarization, respectively. Furthermore, the forest transmissivity and snow properties were input into the Microwave Emission Model of Layered Snowpacks (MEMLS) to establish a dynamic look-up table (LUT). Snow depths were retrieved from satellite passive microwave remote sensing data based on the LUT method, and these retrievals were verified by snow depth observations at 103 meteorological stations. The results showed that the bias between the retrieved and measured snow depths is very small, with root mean square errors (RMSEs) of approximately 6cm in forest regions and 4cm in non-forest regions. When compared with the existing snow products, the snow depth retrieved in this work presented the highest level of accuracy. The regional snow depth product in China is superior to the GlobSnow and NASA AMSR-E standard SWE products in non-forest regions, whereas the GlobSnow estimate is superior to the regional snow depth product in China and NASA AMSR-E standard SWE product estimates in forest regions. Therefore, we conclude that 1) the influence of forest on snow depth retrieval is important, and the appropriate forest parameters should be considered in the estimation of snow depth from passive microwave brightness temperature data; and 2) the snow depth retrieval algorithm based on the dynamic LUT method proved to be efficient in Northeast China.