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Evaluation of the HUT modified snow emission model over lake ice using airborne passive microwave measurements

Gunn, Grant E., Duguay, Claude R., Derksen, Chris, Lemmetyinen, Juha, Toose, Peter
Remote sensing of environment 2011 v.115 no.1 pp. 233-244
algorithms, brackish water, freshwater, ice, lakes, latitude, microwave radiation, microwave radiometers, models, polarized light, remote sensing, salinity, snow, snowpack, surface roughness, temperature, terrestrial ecosystems, winter, Northwest Territories
The algorithms designed to estimate snow water equivalent (SWE) using passive microwave measurements falter in lake-rich high-latitude environments due to the emission properties of ice covered lakes on low frequency measurements. Microwave emission models have been used to simulate brightness temperatures (Tbs) for snowpack characteristics in terrestrial environments but cannot be applied to snow on lakes because of the differing subsurface emissivities and scattering matrices present in ice. This paper examines the performance of a modified version of the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) snow emission model that incorporates microwave emission from lake ice and sub-ice water. Inputs to the HUT model include measurements collected over brackish and freshwater lakes north of Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada in April 2008, consisting of snowpack (depth, density, and snow water equivalent) and lake ice (thickness and ice type). Coincident airborne radiometer measurements at a resolution of 80×100m were used as ground-truth to evaluate the simulations. The results indicate that subsurface media are simulated best when utilizing a modeled effective grain size and a 1mm RMS surface roughness at the ice/water interface compared to using measured grain size and a flat Fresnel reflective surface as input. Simulations at 37GHz (vertical polarization) produce the best results compared to airborne Tbs, with a Root Mean Square Error (RMSE) of 6.2K and 7.9K, as well as Mean Bias Errors (MBEs) of −8.4K and −8.8K for brackish and freshwater sites respectively. Freshwater simulations at 6.9 and 19GHz H exhibited low RMSE (10.53 and 6.15K respectively) and MBE (−5.37 and 8.36K respectively) but did not accurately simulate Tb variability (R=−0.15 and 0.01 respectively). Over brackish water, 6.9GHz simulations had poor agreement with airborne Tbs, while 19GHz V exhibited a low RMSE (6.15K), MBE (−4.52K) and improved relative agreement to airborne measurements (R=0.47). Salinity considerations reduced 6.9GHz errors substantially, with a drop in RMSE from 51.48K and 57.18K for H and V polarizations respectively, to 26.2K and 31.6K, although Tb variability was not well simulated. With best results at 37GHz, HUT simulations exhibit the potential to track Tb evolution, and therefore SWE through the winter season.