CREST-Snow Field Experiment: analysis of snowpack properties using multi-frequency microwave remote sensing data
Abstract. The CREST-Snow Analysis and Field Experiment (CREST-SAFE) was carried out during January–March 2011 at the research site of the National Weather Service office, Caribou, ME, USA. In this experiment dual-polarized microwave (37 and 89 GHz) observations were accompanied by detailed synchronous observations of meteorology and snowpack physical properties. The objective of this long-term field experiment was to improve understanding of the effect of changing snow characteristics (grain size, density, temperature) under various meteorological conditions on the microwave emission of snow and hence to improve retrievals of snow cover properties from satellite observations. In this paper we present an overview of the field experiment and comparative preliminary analysis of the continuous microwave and snowpack observations and simulations. The observations revealed a large difference between the brightness temperature of fresh and aged snowpack even when the snow depth was the same. This is indicative of a substantial impact of evolution of snowpack properties such as snow grain size, density and wetness on microwave observations. In the early spring we frequently observed a large diurnal variation in the 37 and 89 GHz brightness temperature with small depolarization corresponding to daytime snowmelt and nighttime refreeze events. SNTHERM (SNow THERmal Model) and the HUT (Helsinki University of Technology) snow emission model were used to simulate snowpack properties and microwave brightness temperatures, respectively. Simulated snow depth and snowpack temperature using SNTHERM were compared to in situ observations. Similarly, simulated microwave brightness temperatures using the HUT model were compared with the observed brightness temperatures under different snow conditions to identify different states of the snowpack that developed during the winter season.