Using Sentinel-1 wet snow maps to inform fully-distributed physically-based snowpack models
Abstract. Distributed energy and mass-balance snowpack models at sub-kilometric scale have emerged as a tool for snow-hydrological forecasting over large areas. However, their development and evaluation often rely on a handful of well observed sites on flat terrain with limited topographic representativeness. Validation of such models over large scales in rugged terrain is therefore necessary. Remote sensing of wet snow has always been motivated by its potential utility in snow hydrology. However, its concrete potential to enhance physically based operational snowpack models in real time remains unproven. Wet snow maps could potentially help refining the temporal accuracy of simulated snowmelt onset, while the information content of remotely sensed snow cover fraction pertains predominantly to the ablation season. In this work, wet snow maps, derived from Sentinel-1 and snow cover fraction (SCF) retrieval from Sentinel-2 are compared against model results from a fully distributed energy-balance snow model (FSM2oshd). The comparative analysis spans the winter seasons from 2017 to 2021, focusing on the geographic region of Switzerland. We use the concept of wet snow line (WSL) to compare Sentinel-1 wet snow maps with simulations. We show that while the match of the model with flat-field snow depth observation is excellent, the WSL reveals insufficient snow melt in the southern aspects. Amending the albedo parametrization within FSM2oshd allowed achieving earlier melt in such aspects preferentially, thereby reducing WSL biases. Biases with respect to Sentinel-2 snow line (SL) observations were also substantially reduced. These results suggest that wet snow maps contain valuable real-time information for snowpack models, nicely complementing flat-field snow depth observations, particularly in complex terrain and at higher elevations. The persisting correlation between wet snow line and snow line biases provides insights into refined development, tuning and data assimilation methodologies for operational snow-hydrological modelling.
Viewed (geographical distribution)