A snow cover climatology for the Pyrenees from MODIS snow products
Abstract. The seasonal snow in the Pyrenees is critical for hydropower production, crop irrigation and tourism in France, Spain and Andorra. Complementary to in situ observations, satellite remote sensing is useful to monitor the effect of climate on the snow dynamics. The MODIS daily snow products (Terra/MOD10A1 and Aqua/MYD10A1) are widely used to generate snow cover climatologies, yet it is preferable to assess their accuracies prior to their use. Here, we use both in situ snow observations and remote sensing data to evaluate the MODIS snow products in the Pyrenees. First, we compare the MODIS products to in situ snow depth (SD) and snow water equivalent (SWE) measurements. We estimate the values of the SWE and SD best detection thresholds to 40 mm water equivalent (w.e.) and 150 mm, respectively, for both MOD10A1 and MYD10A1. κ coefficients are within 0.74 and 0.92 depending on the product and the variable for these thresholds. However, we also find a seasonal trend in the optimal SWE and SD thresholds, reflecting the hysteresis in the relationship between the depth of the snowpack (or SWE) and its extent within a MODIS pixel. Then, a set of Landsat images is used to validate MOD10A1 and MYD10A1 for 157 dates between 2002 and 2010. The resulting accuracies are 97% (κ = 0.85) for MOD10A1 and 96% (κ = 0.81) for MYD10A1, which indicates a good agreement between both data sets. The effect of vegetation on the results is analyzed by filtering the forested areas using a land cover map. As expected, the accuracies decrease over the forests but the agreement remains acceptable (MOD10A1: 96%, κ = 0.77; MYD10A1: 95%, κ = 0.67). We conclude that MODIS snow products have a sufficient accuracy for hydroclimate studies at the scale of the Pyrenees range. Using a gap-filling algorithm we generate a consistent snow cover climatology, which allows us to compute the mean monthly snow cover duration per elevation band and aspect classes. There is snow on the ground at least 50% of the time above 1600 m between December and April. We finally analyze the snow patterns for the atypical winter 2011–2012. Snow cover duration anomalies reveal a deficient snowpack on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, which seems to have caused a drop in the national hydropower production.