Estimation of Snow Depth over the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau Based on AMSR-E and MODIS Data




Dai, Liyun
Che, Tao
Xie, Hongjie
Wu, Xuejiao

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Snow cover over the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) plays an important role in climate, hydrological, and ecological systems. Currently, passive microwave remote sensing is the most efficient way to monitor snow depth on global and regional scales; however, it presents a serious overestimation of snow cover over the QTP and has difficulty describing patchy snow cover over the QTP because of its coarse spatial resolution. In this study, a new spatial dynamic method is developed by introducing ground emissivity and assimilating the snow cover fraction (SCF) and land surface temperature (LST) of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to derive snow depth at an enhanced spatial resolution. In this method, the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) brightness temperature and MODIS LST are used to calculate ground emissivity. Additionally, the microwave emission model of layered snowpacks (MEMLS) is applied to simulate brightness temperature with varying ground emissivities to determine the key coefficients in the snow depth retrieval algorithm. The results show that the frozen ground emissivity presents large spatial heterogeneity over the QTP, which leads to the variation of coefficients in the snow depth retrieval algorithm. The overestimation of snow depth is rectified by introducing the ground emissivity factor at 18 and 36 GHz. Compared with in situ observations, the snow cover accuracy of the new method is 93.9%, which is better than the 60.2% accuracy of the existing method (old method) which does not consider ground emissivity. The bias and root-mean-square error (RMSE) of snow depth are 1.03 cm and 7.05 cm, respectively, for the new method; these values are much lower than the values of 6.02 cm and 9.75 cm, respectively, for the old method. However, the snow cover accuracy with depths between 1 and 3 cm is below 60%, and snow depths greater than 25 cm are underestimated in Himalayan mountainous areas. In the future, the snow cover identification algorithm should be improved to identify shallow snow cover over the QTP, and topography should be considered in the snow depth retrieval algorithm to improve snow depth accuracy in mountainous areas.



snow depth, passive microwave, Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, emissivity, land surface temperature, snow cover fraction, snow depletion curve


Remote Sensing 10 (12): 1989 (2018)


Earth and Planetary Sciences