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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-258
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-258
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 05 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 05 Dec 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Evaluation of long term Northern Hemisphere snow water equivalent products

Colleen Mortimer1, Lawrence Mudryk1, Chris Derksen1, Kari Luojus2, Ross Brown1, Richard Kelly3, and Marco Tedesco4 Colleen Mortimer et al.
  • 1Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, Canada
  • 2Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 3Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Canada
  • 4Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades NY; NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, USA

Abstract. Seven gridded northern hemisphere snow water equivalent (SWE) products were evaluated as part of the European Space Agency (ESA) Satellite Snow Product Inter-comparison and Evaluation Exercise (SnowPEx). Three categories of datasets were assessed: (1) those utilizing some form of reanalysis (the NASA Global Land Data Assimilation System version 2 – GLDAS; the European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasts interim land surface reanalysis – ERA-land; the NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications – MERRA; the Crocus snow model driven by ERA-Interim meteorology – Crocus); (2) passive microwave remote sensing combined with daily surface snow depth observations (ESA GlobSnow v2.0); and (3) standalone passive microwave retrievals (NASA AMSR-E historical and operational algorithms) which do not utilize surface snow observations. Evaluation included comparisons against independent surface observations from Russia, Finland, and Canada, and calculation of spatial and temporal correlations in SWE anomalies. The standalone passive microwave SWE products (AMSR-E historical and operational SWE algorithms) exhibit low spatial and temporal correlations to other products, and RMSE nearly double the best performing product. Constraining passive microwave retrievals with surface observations (GlobSnow) provides comparable performance to the reanalysis-based products; RMSEs over Finland and Russia for all but the AMSR-E products is ~50 mm or less. Using a four-dataset ensemble that excluded the standalone passive microwave products reduced the RMSE by 10 mm (20%) and increased the correlation by 0.1; ensembles that contain Crocus and/or MERRA perform better than those that do not. The observed RMSE of the best performing datasets is still at the margins of acceptable uncertainty for scientific and operational requirements; only through combined and integrated improvements in remote sensing, modeling, and observations will real progress in SWE product development be achieved.

Colleen Mortimer et al.
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Short summary
Existing standalone passive microwave SWE products have markedly different climatological SWE patterns compared to reanalysis-based datasets. The AMSR-E SWE has low spatial and temporal correlations with the four reanalysis-based products evaluated and GlobSnow and perform poorly in comparisons with snow transect data from Finland, Russia and Canada. There is better agreement with in situ data when multiple SWE products, excluding the standalone passive microwave SWE products, are combined.
Existing standalone passive microwave SWE products have markedly different climatological SWE...
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