EGU23-8530, updated on 03 Jan 2024
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Advancing science readiness for a new snow mass radar mission

Chris Derksen1, Benoit Montpetit1, Vincent Vionnet1, Vincent Fortin1, Juha Lemmetyinen2, Richard Kelly3, and Aaron Thompson3
Chris Derksen et al.
  • 1Science and Technology Branch, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, Canada
  • 2Arctic Research Centre, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 3Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) continue to advance a new satellite Ku-band radar mission focused on providing moderate resolution (500 m) information on seasonal snow mass. Like many regions of the northern hemisphere, estimates of the amount of water stored as seasonal snow are highly uncertain across Canada. To address this gap, a technical concept capable of providing dual-polarization (VV/VH), moderate resolution (500 m), wide swath (~250 km), and high duty cycle (~25% SAR-on time) Ku-band radar measurements at two frequencies (13.5; 17.25 GHz) is under development. Parallel to engineering studies to address the technical readiness, a range of activities are in progress to advance scientific readiness. In this presentation, we will review how recent progress within the mission science team and across the snow community has provided a sound science foundation for the mission, and identify risks to meeting the required level of readiness within the required timeline for full mission implementation. Key areas include:

  • Implementation of computationally efficient SWE retrieval techniques, including parameterized forward model simulations for prediction of snow volume scattering, physical snow modeling to provide initial estimates of snow microstructure, and consideration of background characteristics;
  • Incorporation of land surface model SWE estimates to infill gaps with no radar-derived SWE information due to dense forest, wet snow, and swath gaps;
  • Direct assimilation of Ku-band backscatter into environmental prediction systems (analogous to how SMOS and SMAP data have improved soil moisture analysis through radiance-based assimilation);
  • Segmentation of wet from dry snow;
  • Continued advancement of the understanding of the physics of Ku-band backscatter response to variations snow through new experimental tower and airborne measurements.

Ku-band radar is a viable approach for a terrestrial snow mass mission because these measurements are sensitive to SWE through the volume scattering properties of dry snow and can discriminate the wet versus dry state of snow cover. To justify investment in such a mission, however, the scientific pieces must be in place. Balanced and honest assessments of the state of scientific readiness, the likelihood for emerging capabilities, and the level of engagement across the snow community are essential to ensure a healthy mission development process.

How to cite: Derksen, C., Montpetit, B., Vionnet, V., Fortin, V., Lemmetyinen, J., Kelly, R., and Thompson, A.: Advancing science readiness for a new snow mass radar mission, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8530,, 2023.