EGU23-4196, updated on 03 Jan 2024
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Snow cover monitoring in the Arctic (Svalbard) with RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). Comparison with in-situ measurements and TerraSAR-X data

Jean-Pierre Dedieu1, Joep Van Noort2, Benoit Montpetit3, Manon Levistre4, Simon Vauclare1, Anna Wendleder5, Julia Boike6, Eric Bernard7, Jean-Charles Gallet8, and Hans-Werner Jacobi1
Jean-Pierre Dedieu et al.
  • 1Institut of Environmental Geosciences (IGE), Université Grenoble Alpes/CNRS/Grenoble INP/ IRD, France
  • 2Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  • 3Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Canada
  • 4Institut d’Urbanisme et de Géographie Alpine, Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA), France
  • 5German Aerospace Center (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 6Alfred-Wegener-Institute (AWI), Potsdam, Germany; Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 7Laboratoire ThéMa/CNRS, Université de Franche-Comté (UFC), Besançon, France
  • 8Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), TromsØ, Norway

Arctic snow cover dynamics exhibit modification in terms of extent and duration due to recent changes in climate, i.e. increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, i.e. winter rain-on-snow events (WROS). Remote sensing methods based on active radar images (SAR) have demonstrated a significant advantage for snow monitoring, (i) capturing physical and dielectric properties, (ii) overcoming the weakness of optical images limited by cloud cover and polar night.

The aim of this study is dedicated to the analysis of the spatial and temporal variability of snow cover in the Ny-Ålesund area on the BrØgger peninsula, Svalbard (N 78°55’ / E 11° 55’). In-situ snow measurements from two automated weather stations (Ny-Ålesund, and Bayelva), regular snowpits around the village and in spring on the Austre Loéven, were compared with the spaceborne dataset.

The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) is comprised of three satellites into closely coordinated orbits operating in C-band (5.4 GHz, 5.5 cm). The high temporal (4-day repeat cycle) and spatial resolution of the sensors in Quad-Pol mode (9-m) or Compact-Pol mode (5-m) provide a helpful performance for detecting the spatial variability of snow properties. RCM data are also compared to images of the TerraSAR-X satellite (DLR, Germany) operated in X-band (9.6 GHz, 3.1 cm) at 5-m spatial resolution. Both RCM QP mode and TSX data were acquired with medium incidence angles (33° to 39°) providing better snow penetration for volume backscattering. The RCM CP data were only available under low (23°) and high (53°) beam angles.

The following two snow properties were analyzed:

WROS detection: the focus was set on the 16-17 March 2022 event (+ 5.5 °C, 62 mm). RCM data at cross-polarization VH or HV can clearly detect the impact of rain on snow, indicating an intensity drop of -10 dB, even on the glacier at high elevation.

Snow depth retrieval: the study covers spring 2021 (March-June) and the complete winter season 2021-2022 (November-June).

- Concerning QP mode, better correlation between snow depth and SAR backscattering is observed by the cross-pol VH component, retrieving more volume backscattering information than co-pol configuration or total backscattering power (Span). We observe also that descending orbit images (06 :30 AM) provide a better correlation with snow depth than ascending orbit (15 :30 PM) data.

- Concerning CP mode and Span (RH+RV), the low incidence images (23°) do not match the snow depth observations due to main surface backscattering, contrariwise the high incidence images correlate better with in-situ observations. The analyses of the Stokes vector elements showed a satisfying correlation for the g3 element and the Relative Phase polarimetric decomposition.

Finally, a comparison of Span temporal values between RCM at C-band and TSX at X-band indicates similar time profiles, but clearly lower values of -5 to -10 dB at the C-band.

How to cite: Dedieu, J.-P., Van Noort, J., Montpetit, B., Levistre, M., Vauclare, S., Wendleder, A., Boike, J., Bernard, E., Gallet, J.-C., and Jacobi, H.-W.: Snow cover monitoring in the Arctic (Svalbard) with RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). Comparison with in-situ measurements and TerraSAR-X data, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-4196,, 2023.