Airborne SAR and passive microwave measurements over snow covered tundra for CoReH20 retrieval validation and land surface model testing
Principal Investigator: Derksen, Chris (4)
Licence Number: 15169
Organization: Environment Canada
Licenced Year(s): 2013 2012
Issued: Nov 27, 2012
Project Team: Chris Derksen (Principal Investigator, EC), Peter Toose (Scientist, EC), Arvids Silis (Scientist, EC), Stephen Howell (Scientist, EC), Dave Halpin (Technician, EC), Cuyler Onclin (Technician, EC), Mark Russell (Technician, EC), Alexander Coccia (Technician, Metasensing), Alexandre Langlois (Scientist, University of Sherbrooke), Alain Royer (Scientist, University of Sherbrooke), Tom Watts (Scientist, Northumbria University), Nick Rutter (Scientist, Northumbria University), Josh King (Scientist, University of Waterloo), Phil Marsh (Scientist, EC)

Objective(s): To retrieve snow water equivalent (SWE) over land at a high spatial resolution (200-500 metres). This would make available high resolution, satellite derived SWE, for monitoring and modelling applications. The objective of this project is to utilize a sub-arctic open tundra watershed as a test bed for: 1) the CoReH20 satellite SWE retrieval approach, and 2) the potential use of CoReH20 SWE retrievals as observational inputs to various environmental prediction models, including land surface data assimilation systems and distributed hydrological models used at Environment Canada.

Project Description: The proposed European Space Agency Earth Explorer 7 CoReH20 satellite mission has the primary objective of retrieving snow water equivalent (SWE) over land at a high spatial resolution (200-500 metres). This would make available high resolution, satellite derived SWE, for monitoring and modeling applications. To-date, airborne measurements to test the CoReH20 satellite mission concept have been acquired over mixed forest terrain in Finland, where the vegetation canopy and complex dielectric background from wetlands and bogs make for a challenging retrieval environment.

The objective of this project is to utilize a sub-arctic open tundra watershed (Trail Valley Creek north of Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada) as a test bed for: 1) the CoReH20 satellite SWE retrieval approach. Because of a lack of standing vegetation, relatively homogeneous background soil moisture and temperature, and spatially variable SWE (due to wind redistribution) this is an ideal environment for the evaluation of SWE retrieval sensitivity, and 2) the potential use of CoReH20 SWE retrievals as observational inputs to various environmental prediction models, including land surface data assimilation systems and distributed hydrological models used at Environment Canada.


In order to evaluate the CoReH20 satellite SWE retrieval capability, we propose airborne measurements with the European Space Agency SnowSAR instrument, (a replica of the same instruments that would be placed onboard the CoReH20 satellite platform), over the Trail Valley Creek watershed near Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Snow measurements and distributed hydrological modeling activities have been conducted by Environment Canada in Trail Valley Creek since 1995. The current measurement plan includes the acquisition of near-coincident airborne SAR and passive microwave measurements over open canopy forest, tundra, and lake ice in the Trail Valley Creek watershed. Thick permafrost conditions in the region (with a thin summer active layer) increase the likelihood that low-snow, frozen ground measurements can be acquired in December before substantial snow accumulation, while flights in March and April would ensure surveying of close to maximum seasonal snow accumulation. Snow measurements will include bulk snow properties (depth, density, SWE) along flight lines. A snow survey sampling strategy will be devised to determine airborne/satellite SWE retrieval sensitivity to observed local scale variability in snow distribution induced by topographic and vegetation influences. The survey design will also address the fundamental issue of scaling these high resolution measurements to match the scale proposed by future satellite missions. A seasonal sampling strategy (December-April) is required to address SWE retrieval sensitivity to within-season changes in snow depth and vertical snowpack complexity (snow grain growth, ice crusts).

Results of this study will be published in academic journals once the analysis of the data is complete. In-addition, our research team is willing to provide a public talk to community members to provide more background information on the type of work that we are doing, and to discuss the research with interested parties.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from December 2, 2012 to December 13, 2012.