Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


For four decades, satellite-based passive microwave sensors have provided valuable snow water equivalent (SWE) monitoring at a global scale. Before continuous long-term SWE records can be used for scientific or applied purposes, consistency of SWE measurements among different sensors is required. SWE retrievals from two passive sensors currently operating, the Special Sensor Microwave Imager Sounder (SSMIS) and the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2), have not been fully evaluated in comparison to each other and previous instruments. Here, we evaluated consistency between the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) onboard the F13 Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and SSMIS onboard the F17 DMSP, from November 2002 to April 2011 using the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) for continuity. Likewise, we evaluated consistency between AMSR-E and AMSR2 SWE retrievals from November 2007 to April 2016, using SSMIS for continuity. The analysis is conducted for 1176 watersheds in the North Central U.S. with consideration of difference among three snow classifications (Warm forest, Prairie, and Maritime). There are notable SWE differences between the SSM/I and SSMIS sensors in the Warm forest class, likely due to the different interpolation methods for brightness temperature (Tb) between the F13 SSM/I and F17 SSMIS sensors. The SWE differences between AMSR2 and AMSR-E are generally smaller than the differences between SSM/I and SSMIS SWE, based on time series comparisons and yearly mean bias. Finally, the spatial bias patterns between AMSR-E and AMSR2 versus SSMIS indicate sufficient spatial consistency to treat the AMSR-E and AMSR2 datasets as one continuous record. Our results provide useful information on systematic differences between recent satellite-based SWE retrievals and suggest subsequent studies to ensure reconciliation between different sensors in long-term SWE records.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Remote Sensing



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This is an article published by MDPI AG in Remote Sensing in 2017, available online: