Repeated Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) surveys are quickly becoming the de facto method for measuring spatial variability of montane snowpacks at high resolution. This study examines the potential of a 750 km2 LiDAR-derived dataset of snow depths, collected during the 2007 northern Colorado Cold Lands Processes Experiment (CLPX-2), as a validation source for an operational hydrologic snow model. The SNOw Data Assimilation System (SNODAS) model framework, operated by the US National Weather Service, combines a physically-based energy-and-mass-balance snow model with satellite, airborne and automated ground-based observations to provide daily estimates of snowpack properties at nominally 1 km resolution over the coterminous United States. Independent validation data is scarce due to the assimilating nature of SNODAS, compelling the need for an independent validation dataset with substantial geographic coverage.
Within twelve distinctive 500 m × 500 m study areas located throughout the survey swath, ground crews performed approximately 600 manual snow depth measurements during each of the CLPX-2 LiDAR acquisitions. This supplied a dataset for constraining the uncertainty of upscaled LiDAR estimates of snow depth at the 1 km SNODAS resolution, resulting in a root-mean-square difference of 13 cm. Upscaled LiDAR snow depths were then compared to the SNODAS-estimates over the entire study area for the dates of the LiDAR flights. The remotely-sensed snow depths provided a more spatially continuous comparison dataset and agreed more closely to the model estimates than that of the in situ measurements alone. Finally, the results revealed three distinct areas where the differences between LiDAR observations and SNODAS estimates were most drastic, suggesting natural processes specific to these regions as causal influences on model uncertainty.
This document was originally published by Copernicus Publications in Cryosphere Discussions. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution License. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/. doi: 10.5194/tcd-8-3141-2014
Hedrick, A. R.; Marshall, H. P.; Winstral, A.; Elder, K.; Yueh, S.; and Cline, D.. (2014). "Independent Evaluation of the SNODAS Snow Depth Product Using Regional Scale Lidar-Derived Measurements". Cryosphere Discussions, 8(3), 3141-3170.