An Evaluation of Satellite Retrievals of Snowfall in Regions of Complex Terrain

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Thursday, 6 February 2014: 12:00 AM
Room C210 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Kimberly A. Reed, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL; and S. W. Nesbitt, M. S. Kulie, T. S. L'Ecuyer, and N. B. Wood

Snowfall in regions of complex terrain plays an important role in the global hydrologic cycle, and can have major physical and social implications ranging from water resource management, to flash flooding, to climate change impacts. Due to the diversity of impacts that can result from snowfall, the ability to directly observe and measure snowfall in real-time is of great importance. However, the physical limitations of ground-based radars particularly in complex terrain and the lack of spatially complete measurement networks in mountainous regions make high-resolution ground-based snowfall observations a challenging task. Spaceborne satellite retrievals of snowfall such as those that will be made possible by the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission offer the ability to make high spatial and temporal resolution measurements that are otherwise not possible using traditional ground-based methods.

This study seeks to investigate the skill level of current spaceborne snowfall products over the complex terrain of the Rocky Mountains in the western United States. Satellite derived snowfall products from measurements obtained via instruments including the CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR), EOS Aqua Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E), and GCOM-W1 Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) are evaluated using ground-based observations such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) data and the NCEP Stage IV data. Satellite derived snowfall variables including snowfall rate and snow water equivalent are compared to ground-based observations to determine the overall accuracy and skill level of current satellite derived snowfall products in the region of interest. An analysis is also done to determine how the accuracy and skill level change based on varying snowfall regimes such as light, moderate, and heavy snowfall events. The knowledge gained will be used to determine how satellite derived snowfall measurements in regions of complex terrain may be improved upon for future missions including GPM.