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Monitoring snowpack evolution using interferometric synthetic aperture radar on the North Slope of Alaska, USA

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This research investigates the use of Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) to generate a time-series of snow water equivalent (SWE) for dry snow within the Kuparuk watershed, North Slope, Alaska, during the winter of 1993/1994. Maps depicting relative change in phase and the theoretical relative change in SWE between satellite acquisitions are created for 3-day periods at the end of March 1994 using both ascending and descending ERS-1 overpasses. The theoretical coefficient relating relative change in phase and relative change in SWE for C-band is found to be at least twice as large as what is expected when using a simple single-layer snow model for this study area and time period. Without any direct measurements of SWE on the ground, station measurements of snow depth and hourly wind are linked to each 3-day relative change in phase map. Along with a qualitative assessment, quantitative measures of the rate and magnitude of phase change around these stations are directly compared to the hourly wind data for a given 3-day period. InSAR-derived maps acquired around a measured precipitation event show a considerable relationship to the predominant direction of strong winds over each 3-day period while maps acquired around no measureable precipitation depict much less correlation between phase change and predominant direction of strong winds. Despite limited ground measurements to infer snowpack conditions, these results show continued promise for the InSAR technique to measure changes in snowpack conditions (e.g. SWE) at much higher resolutions than manual sampling methods or passive microwave remote sensing. The extension of this technique to current L-band InSAR satellite platforms is also discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab, Hanover, NH 03755, USA 2: Department of Geography,University of Utah, Salt Lake CityUT84112, USA 3: Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, FairbanksAK99775, USA

Publication date: 2011-07-20

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