Evaluating L-band InSAR Snow Water Equivalent Retrievals with Repeat Ground-Penetrating Radar and Terrestrial Lidar Surveys in Northern Colorado

Bonnell, Randall; McGrath, Daniel; Tarricone, Jack; Marshall, Hans-Peter; Bump, Ella; Duncan, Caroline; Kampf, Stephanie; Lou, Yunling; Olsen-Mikitowicz, Alex; Sears, Megan; Williams, Keith; Zeller, Lucas; Zheng, Yang

Snow provides critical water resources for billions of people, making the remote sensing of snow water equivalent (SWE) a highly prioritized endeavor, particularly given current and projected climate change impacts. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is a promising method for remote sensing of SWE because radar penetrates snow and SAR interferometry (InSAR) can be used to estimate changes in SWE (ΔSWE) between SAR acquisitions. We calculated ΔSWE retrievals from 10 NASA L-band Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle SAR (UAVSAR) acquisitions in northern Colorado during the winters of 2020 and 2021 and evaluated the retrievals against measurements of SWE from ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and terrestrial lidar scans (TLS) collected as part of the NASA SnowEx 2020 and 2021 Time Series Campaigns. Next, we evaluated the full UAVSAR time series at the northern Colorado sites using SWE measured at seven automated stations and ascertained whether coherence can be used as an accuracy metric for ΔSWE retrievals. For single InSAR pairs, UAVSAR ΔSWE retrievals displayed high correlation with TLS and GPR ΔSWE retrievals (overall r = 0.72–0.79) and yielded an RMSE of 19–22 mm. When compared to SWE at seven automated stations, cumulative SWE from UAVSAR retrievals exhibited poor agreement in 2020, but high agreement in 2021. We found that SWE can be reliably retrieved, even for lower coherences, as RMSE values ranged by <10 mm from coherences of 0.10 to 0.90. The upcoming NASA-ISRO SAR satellite mission, with a 12-day revisit period, offers an exciting opportunity to apply this methodology globally, but further quantification of limitations is necessary, particularly in forested environments and as the snowpack begins to melt.

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Bonnell, Randall / McGrath, Daniel / Tarricone, Jack / et al: Evaluating L-band InSAR Snow Water Equivalent Retrievals with Repeat Ground-Penetrating Radar and Terrestrial Lidar Surveys in Northern Colorado. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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