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      Sentinel-1 snow depth retrieval at sub-kilometer resolution over the European Alps

      , , , , ,
      The Cryosphere
      Copernicus GmbH

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          Abstract

          Abstract. Seasonal snow is an essential water resource in many mountain regions. However, the spatio-temporal variability in mountain snow depth or snow water equivalent (SWE) at regional to global scales is not well understood due to the lack of high-resolution satellite observations and robust retrieval algorithms. We investigate the ability of the Sentinel-1 mission to monitor snow depth at sub-kilometer (100 m, 500 m, and 1 km) resolutions over the European Alps for 2017–2019. The Sentinel-1 backscatter observations, especially in cross-polarization, show a high correlation with regional model simulations of snow depth over Austria and Switzerland. The observed changes in radar backscatter with the accumulation or ablation of snow are used in an empirical change detection algorithm to retrieve snow depth. The algorithm includes the detection of dry and wet snow conditions. Compared to in situ measurements at 743 sites in the European Alps, dry snow depth retrievals at 500 m and 1 km resolution have a spatio-temporal correlation of 0.89. The mean absolute error equals 20 %–30 % of the measured values for snow depths between 1.5 and 3 m. The performance slightly degrades for retrievals at the finer 100 m spatial resolution as well as for retrievals of shallower and deeper snow. The results demonstrate the ability of Sentinel-1 to provide snow estimates in mountainous regions where satellite-based estimates of snow mass are currently lacking. The retrievals can improve our knowledge of seasonal snow mass in areas with complex topography and benefit a number of applications, such as water resource management, flood forecasting, and numerical weather prediction. However, future research is recommended to further investigate the physical basis of the sensitivity of Sentinel-1 backscatter observations to snow accumulation.

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          The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2)

          The Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2) is the latest atmospheric reanalysis of the modern satellite era produced by NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO). MERRA-2 assimilates observation types not available to its predecessor, MERRA, and includes updates to the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model and analysis scheme so as to provide a viable ongoing climate analysis beyond MERRA’s terminus. While addressing known limitations of MERRA, MERRA-2 is also intended to be a development milestone for a future integrated Earth system analysis (IESA) currently under development at GMAO. This paper provides an overview of the MERRA-2 system and various performance metrics. Among the advances in MERRA-2 relevant to IESA are the assimilation of aerosol observations, several improvements to the representation of the stratosphere including ozone, and improved representations of cryospheric processes. Other improvements in the quality of MERRA-2 compared with MERRA include the reduction of some spurious trends and jumps related to changes in the observing system, and reduced biases and imbalances in aspects of the water cycle. Remaining deficiencies are also identified. Production of MERRA-2 began in June 2014 in four processing streams, and converged to a single near-real time stream in mid 2015. MERRA-2 products are accessible online through the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data Information Services Center (GES DISC).
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            The community Noah land surface model with multiparameterization options (Noah-MP): 1. Model description and evaluation with local-scale measurements

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              Importance and vulnerability of the world’s water towers

              Mountains are the water towers of the world, supplying a substantial part of both natural and anthropogenic water demands1,2. They are highly sensitive and prone to climate change3,4, yet their importance and vulnerability have not been quantified at the global scale. Here we present a global water tower index (WTI), which ranks all water towers in terms of their water-supplying role and the downstream dependence of ecosystems and society. For each water tower, we assess its vulnerability related to water stress, governance, hydropolitical tension and future climatic and socio-economic changes. We conclude that the most important (highest WTI) water towers are also among the most vulnerable, and that climatic and socio-economic changes will affect them profoundly. This could negatively impact 1.9 billion people living in (0.3 billion) or directly downstream of (1.6 billion) mountainous areas. Immediate action is required to safeguard the future of the world's most important and vulnerable water towers.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                (View ORCID Profile)
                Journal
                The Cryosphere
                The Cryosphere
                Copernicus GmbH
                1994-0424
                2022
                January 17 2022
                : 16
                : 1
                : 159-177
                Article
                10.5194/tc-16-159-2022
                5ff4b24b-5188-4f94-8c77-13d613f766b1
                © 2022

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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