Articles | Volume 5, issue 2
Research article
08 Aug 2016
Research article |  | 08 Aug 2016

Spatial and temporal variation of bulk snow properties in northern boreal and tundra environments based on extensive field measurements

Henna-Reetta Hannula, Juha Lemmetyinen, Anna Kontu, Chris Derksen, and Jouni Pulliainen

Abstract. An extensive in situ data set of snow depth, snow water equivalent (SWE), and snow density collected in support of the European Space Agency (ESA) SnowSAR-2 airborne campaigns in northern Finland during the winter of 2011–2012 is presented (ESA Earth Observation Campaigns data 2000–2016). The suitability of the in situ measurement protocol to provide an accurate reference for the simultaneous airborne SAR (synthetic aperture radar) data products over different land cover types was analysed in the context of spatial scale, sample spacing, and uncertainty. The analysis was executed by applying autocorrelation analysis and root mean square difference (RMSD) error estimations. The results showed overall higher variability for all the three bulk snow parameters over tundra, open bogs and lakes (due to wind processes); however, snow depth tended to vary over shorter distances in forests (due to snow–vegetation interactions). Sample spacing/sample size had a statistically significant effect on the mean snow depth over all land cover types. Analysis executed for 50, 100, and 200 m transects revealed that in most cases less than five samples were adequate to describe the snow depth mean with RMSD < 5 %, but for land cover with high overall variability an indication of increased sample size of 1.5–3 times larger was gained depending on the scale and the desired maximum RMSD. Errors for most of the land cover types reached  ∼ 10 % if only three measurements were considered.

The collected measurements, which are available via the ESA website upon registration, compose an exceptionally large manually collected snow data set in Scandinavian taiga and tundra environments. This information represents a valuable contribution to the snow research community and can be applied to various snow studies.

Short summary
The paper described an extensive in situ data set of bulk snow depth, snow water equivalent, and snow density collected as a support of SnowSAR-2 airborne campaign in northern Finland. The spatial and temporal variability of these snow properties was analyzed in different land cover types. The success of the chosen measurement protocol to provide an accurate reference for the simultaneous SAR data products was analyzed in the context of spatial scale, sample size, and uncertainty.