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Validation of operational AVHRR subpixel snow retrievals over the European Alps based on ASTER data

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Snow is of great economic and social importance for the European Alps. Accurate monitoring of the alpine snow cover is a key component in studying regional climate change as well as in daily weather forecasting and snowmelt run-off modelling. These applications require snow cover information on a high temporal resolution in near-real time. For the European Alps, operational snow cover fraction maps are generated on a daily basis using data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) platforms. Snow cover distribution is inherently discontinuous and heterogeneous in this mountainous region. We have therefore implemented a straightforward multiple endmember unmixing approach to estimate fractional snow cover. Subpixel proportions are difficult to validate because similar products are not available and appropriate ground-based observations do not exist. In this study, we validate AVHRR subpixel snow retrievals using binary classified data sets from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) to establish absolute errors of our operational approach at three test sites. Our analysis indicates that the AVHRR subpixel maps compare well with the aggregated ASTER data, showing an overall correlation of 0.78 and providing subpixel estimates with a mean absolute error of 10.4% fractional snow cover. Discrepancies between AVHRR and ASTER snow fraction maps can be attributed to varying snow conditions, terrain effects and density in forest cover.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss, CH-8044 Zurich, Switzerland,University of Bern, Department of Geography, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland,Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, Davos Dorf, Switzerland 2: iTECH-Engineering AG, CH-2544 Bettlach, Switzerland 3: Syngenta Crop Protection AG, Agronomic Information Service, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland 4: University of Bern, Department of Geography, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland 5: Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, Davos Dorf, Switzerland

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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