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Assessment of the relative accuracy of hemispheric-scale snow-cover maps

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There are several hemispheric-scale satellite-derived snow-cover maps available, but none has been fully validated. For the period 23 October-25 December 2000, we compare snow maps of North America derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and operational snow maps from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC), both of which rely on satellite data from the visible and nearinfrared parts of the spectrum; we also compare MODIS maps with Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) passive-microwave snow maps for the same period. The maps derived from visible and near-infrared data are more accurate for mapping snow cover than are the passive-microwave-derived maps, but discrepancies exist as to the location and extent of the snow cover even between operational snow maps.The MODIS snow-cover maps show more snow in each of the 8 day periods than do the NOHRSC maps, in part because MODIS maps the effects of fleeting snowstorms due to its frequent coverage.The large (~30 km) footprint of the SSM/I pixel, and the difficulty in distinguishing wet and shallow snow from wet or snow-free ground, reveal differences up to 5.33 × 106 km2 in the amount of snow mapped using MODIS vs SSM/I data. Algorithms that utilize both visible and passive-microwave data, which would take advantage of the all-weather mapping capability of the passive-microwave data, will be refined following the launch of the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR) in the fall of 2001.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-01-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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