Remote Sensing, Vol. 11, Pages 8: Evaluation of Sub-Kilometric Numerical Simulations of C-Band Radar Backscatter over the French Alps against Sentinel-1 Observations

Research paper by Gaëlle Veyssière, Fatima Karbou, Samuel Morin, Matthieu Lafaysse, Vincent Vionnet

Indexed on: 21 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: Remote sensing


This study compares numerical simulations and observations of C-band radar backscatter in a wide region (2300 km 2 ) in the Northern French Alps. Numerical simulations were performed using a model chain composed of the SAFRAN meteorological reanalysis, the Crocus snowpack model and the radiative transfer model Microwave Emission Model for Layered Snowpacks (MEMLS3&a), operating at a spatial resolution of 250-m. The simulations, without any bias correction, were evaluated against 141 Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar observation scenes with a resolution of 20 m over three snow seasons from October 2014 to June 2017. Results show that there is good agreement between observations and simulations under snow-free or dry snow conditions, consistent with the fact that dry snow is almost transparent at C-band. Under wet snow conditions, although the changes in time and space are well correlated, there is a significant deviation, up to 5 dB, between observations and simulations. The reasons for these discrepancies were explored, including a sensitivity analysis on the impact of the liquid water percolation scheme in Crocus. This study demonstrates the feasibility of performing end-to-end simulations of radar backscatter over extended geographical region. This makes it possible to envision data assimilation of radar data into snowpack models in the future, pending that deviations are mitigated, either through bias corrections or improved physical modeling of both snow properties and corresponding radar backscatter.