Passive Microwave Brightness Temperature Assimilation to Improve Snow Mass Estimation Across Complex Terrain in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan


An ensemble Kalman filter is used to assimilate Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-2 (AMSR2) observations of passive microwave (PMW) brightness temperatures (spectral differences, ΔTb) into land surface model estimates of snow mass over northwestern high mountain Asia (HMA). Trained support vector machines serve as the observation operator and map the geophysical modeled variables into ΔTb space within the assimilation framework. Evaluation of the assimilation routine is carried out through comparison of assimilated snow mass estimates with an in situ dataset. The assimilation framework helps improve the land surface model estimates through PMW ΔTb assimilation, particularly in terms of decreasing the domain-wide bias. The assimilation framework proved more effective during the (dry) snow accumulation season and decreased the bias and root-mean-square error (RMSE) in snow mass estimates at 76% and 58% of the comparative pixels, respectively. During the snow ablation season, the PMW brightness temperature signal contained less information related to snow mass due to the presence of other concurrent geophysical features that effectively serve as noise during the snow mass update. The utilization of PMW ΔTb for accurate snow mass estimation in complex terrain such as HMA is dependent on a multitude of factors for optimal results; however, it does add utility to the land surface model if the relevant pitfalls are taken into consideration prior to the state variable update.

IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing