Chris Derksen


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Impact of measured and simulated tundra snowpack properties on heat transfer
Victoria R. Dutch, Nick Rutter, Leanne Wake, Melody Sandells, Chris Derksen, Branden Walker, Gabriel Gosselin, Oliver Sonnentag, Richard Essery, Richard Kelly, Phillip Marsh, Joshua King, Julia Boike
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, Issue 10

Abstract. Snowpack microstructure controls the transfer of heat to, as well as the temperature of, the underlying soils. In situ measurements of snow and soil properties from four field campaigns during two winters (March and November 2018, January and March 2019) were compared to an ensemble of CLM5.0 (Community Land Model) simulations, at Trail Valley Creek, Northwest Territories, Canada. Snow micropenetrometer profiles allowed for snowpack density and thermal conductivity to be derived at higher vertical resolution (1.25 mm) and a larger sample size (n=1050) compared to traditional snowpit observations (3 cm vertical resolution; n=115). Comparing measurements with simulations shows CLM overestimated snow thermal conductivity by a factor of 3, leading to a cold bias in wintertime soil temperatures (RMSE=5.8 ∘C). Two different approaches were taken to reduce this bias: alternative parameterisations of snow thermal conductivity and the application of a correction factor. All the evaluated parameterisations of snow thermal conductivity improved simulations of wintertime soil temperatures, with that of Sturm et al. (1997) having the greatest impact (RMSE=2.5 ∘C). The required correction factor is strongly related to snow depth (R2=0.77,RMSE=0.066) and thus differs between the two snow seasons, limiting the applicability of such an approach. Improving simulated snow properties and the corresponding heat flux is important, as wintertime soil temperatures are an important control on subnivean soil respiration and hence impact Arctic winter carbon fluxes and budgets.


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Impact of measured and simulated tundra snowpack properties on heat transfer
Victoria R. Dutch, Nick Rutter, Leanne Wake, Melody Sandells, Chris Derksen, Branden Walker, Gabriel Gosselin, Oliver Sonnentag, Richard Essery, Richard Kelly, Philip Marsh, Joshua King

Abstract. Snowpack microstructure controls the transfer of heat to, and the temperature of, the underlying soils. In situ measurements of snow and soil properties from four field campaigns during two different winters (March and November 2018, January and March 2019) were compared to an ensemble of CLM5.0 (Community Land Model) simulations, at Trail Valley Creek, Northwest Territories, Canada. Snow MicroPenetrometer profiles allowed snowpack density and thermal conductivity to be derived at higher vertical resolution (1.25 mm) and a larger sample size (n = 1050) compared to traditional snowpit observations (3 cm vertical resolution; n = 115). Comparing measurements with simulations shows CLM overestimated snow thermal conductivity by a factor of 3, leading to a cold bias in wintertime soil temperatures (RMSE = 5.8 °C). Bias-correction of the simulated thermal conductivity (relative to field measurements) improved simulated soil temperatures (RMSE = 2.1 °C). Multiple linear regression shows the required correction factor is strongly related to snow depth (R2 = 0.77, RMSE = 0.066) particularly early in the winter. Furthermore, CLM simulations did not adequately represent the observed high proportions of depth hoar. Addressing uncertainty in simulated snow properties and the corresponding heat flux is important, as wintertime soil temperatures act as a control on subnivean soil respiration, and hence impact Arctic winter carbon fluxes and budgets.

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Review Article: Global Monitoring of Snow Water Equivalent using High Frequency Radar Remote Sensing
Leung Tsang, M. T. Durand, Chris Derksen, A. P. Barros, Dong-In Kang, Hans Lievens, Hans‐Peter Marshall, Jiyue Zhu, Joel T. Johnson, Joshua King, Juha Lemmetyinen, Melody Sandells, Nick Rutter, Paul Siqueira, A. W. Nolin, Batu Osmanoglu, Carrie Vuyovich, Edward Kim, Drew Taylor, Ioanna Merkouriadi, Ludovic Brucker, Mahdi Navari, Marie Dumont, Richard Kelly, Rhae Sung Kim, Tien-Hao Liao, Xiaolan Xu

Abstract. Seasonal snow cover is the largest single component of the cryosphere in areal extent, covering an average of 46 million square km of Earth's surface (31 % of the land area) each year, and is thus an important expression of and driver of the Earth’s climate. In recent years, Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover has been declining at about the same rate (~ −13 %/decade) as Arctic summer sea ice. More than one-sixth of the world’s population relies on seasonal snowpack and glaciers for a water supply that is likely to decrease this century. Snow is also a critical component of Earth’s cold regions' ecosystems, in which wildlife, vegetation, and snow are strongly interconnected. Snow water equivalent (SWE) describes the quantity of snow stored on the land surface and is of fundamental importance to water, energy, and geochemical cycles. Quality global SWE estimates are lacking. Given the vast seasonal extent combined with the spatially variable nature of snow distribution at regional and local scales, surface observations will not be able to provide sufficient SWE information. Satellite observations presently cannot provide SWE information at the spatial and temporal resolutions required to address science and high socio-economic value applications such as water resource management and streamflow forecasting. In this paper, we review the potential contribution of X- and Ku-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) for global monitoring of SWE. We describe radar interactions with snow-covered landscapes, characterization of snowpack properties using radar measurements, and refinement of retrieval algorithms via synergy with other microwave remote sensing approaches. SAR can image the surface during both day and night regardless of cloud cover, allowing high-frequency revisit at high spatial resolution as demonstrated by missions such as Sentinel-1. The physical basis for estimating SWE from X- and Ku-band radar measurements at local scales is volume scattering by millimetre-scale snow grains. Inference of global snow properties from SAR requires an interdisciplinary approach based on field observations of snow microstructure, physical snow modelling, electromagnetic theory, and retrieval strategies over a range of scales. New field measurement capabilities have enabled significant advances in understanding snow microstructure such as grain size, densities, and layering. We describe radar interactions with snow-covered landscapes, the characterization of snowpack properties using radar measurements, and the refinement of retrieval algorithms via synergy with other microwave remote sensing approaches. This review serves to inform the broader snow research, monitoring, and applications communities on progress made in recent decades, and sets the stage for a new era in SWE remote-sensing from SAR measurements.


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L-Band response to freeze/thaw in a boreal forest stand from ground- and tower-based radiometer observations
Alexandre Roy, Peter Toose, Alex Mavrovic, Christoforos Pappas, A. Royer, Chris Derksen, Aaron Berg, Tracy Rowlandson, Mariam El-Amine, Alan G. Barr, Andrew Black, Alexandre Langlois, Oliver Sonnentag
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 237

Abstract The extent, timing and duration of seasonal freeze/thaw (FT) state exerts dominant control on boreal forest carbon, water and energy cycle processes. Recent and on-going L-Band (≈1.4 GHz) spaceborne missions have the potential to provide enhanced information on FT state over large geographic regions with rapid revisit time. However, the low spatial resolution of these spaceborne observations (≈45 km) makes it difficult to isolate the primary contributions (soil, vegetation, snow) to the FT signal in boreal forest. To better quantify these controls, two L-Band radiometers were deployed (September 2016 to July 2017) at a black spruce (Picea mariana) dominated boreal forest site; one unit above and one unit on the ground surface below the canopy to disentangle the microwave contributions of overstory canopy, and the ground surface on the FT brightness temperature (TB) signal. Bi-weekly multi-angular measurements from both units were combined in order to estimate effective scattering albedo (ω) and the microwave vegetative optical depth (τ), using the τ-ω microwave vegetation radiative transfer model. Soil moisture probes were inserted in the trunk of two black spruce and one larch (Larix laricina) trunks located in the footprint of the above-canopy radiometer to measure tree trunk relative dielectric constant (RDCtree). Results showed a strong relationship between RDCtree and tree skin temperature (Ttree) under freezing temperature conditions, which led to a gradual decrease of τ in winter. During the spring thawing period in April and May, τ remained relatively stable. In contrast, it increased substantially in June, most likely in relation to the growing season onset. Overall, τ was related to the seasonal RDCtree cycle (r = 0.76). Regarding ω, a value of 0.086 (±0.029) was obtained, but no dependency on Ttree or RDCtree was observed. Despite the observed impact of FT on vegetation L-Band signals, results from continuous TB observations spanning from 14 September 2016 to 25 May 2017, indicated that the main contribution to the observed L-Band TB freeze-up signal in the fall originated from the ground surface. The above-canopy unit showed some sensitivity to overstory canopy FT, yet the sensitivity was lower compared to the signal induced by the ground FT. In April and May, L-Band radiometer FT retrieval agreed closely to the melt onset detection using RDCtree but it was likely related to the coincident presence of liquid water in the snow. Our findings have important applications to L-Band spaceborne FT algorithm development and validation across the boreal forest. More specifically, our findings allow better quantification of the potential effect of frozen ground on various biogeophysical and biogeochemical processes in boreal forests.


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Effect of snow microstructure variability on Ku-band radar snow water equivalent retrievals
Nick Rutter, Melody Sandells, Chris Derksen, Joshua King, Peter Toose, Leanne Wake, Tom Watts, Richard Essery, Alexandre Roy, A. Royer, Philip Marsh, C. F. Larsen, Matthew Sturm
The Cryosphere, Volume 13, Issue 11

Abstract. Spatial variability in snowpack properties negatively impacts our capacity to make direct measurements of snow water equivalent (SWE) using satellites. A comprehensive data set of snow microstructure (94 profiles at 36 sites) and snow layer thickness (9000 vertical profiles across nine trenches) collected over two winters at Trail Valley Creek, NWT, Canada, was applied in synthetic radiative transfer experiments. This allowed for robust assessment of the impact of estimation accuracy of unknown snow microstructural characteristics on the viability of SWE retrievals. Depth hoar layer thickness varied over the shortest horizontal distances, controlled by subnivean vegetation and topography, while variability in total snowpack thickness approximated that of wind slab layers. Mean horizontal correlation lengths of layer thickness were less than a metre for all layers. Depth hoar was consistently ∼30 % of total depth, and with increasing total depth the proportion of wind slab increased at the expense of the decreasing surface snow layer. Distinct differences were evident between distributions of layer properties; a single median value represented density and specific surface area (SSA) of each layer well. Spatial variability in microstructure of depth hoar layers dominated SWE retrieval errors. A depth hoar SSA estimate of around 7 % under the median value was needed to accurately retrieve SWE. In shallow snowpacks <0.6 m, depth hoar SSA estimates of ±5 %–10 % around the optimal retrieval SSA allowed SWE retrievals within a tolerance of ±30 mm. Where snowpacks were deeper than ∼30 cm, accurate values of representative SSA for depth hoar became critical as retrieval errors were exceeded if the median depth hoar SSA was applied.


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The influence of snow microstructure on dual-frequency radar measurements in a tundra environment
Joshua King, Chris Derksen, Peter Toose, Alexandre Langlois, C. F. Larsen, Juha Lemmetyinen, P. Marsh, Benoît Montpetit, Alexandre Roy, Nick Rutter, Matthew Sturm
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 215

Abstract Recent advancement in the understanding of snow-microwave interactions has helped to isolate the considerable potential for radar-based retrieval of snow water equivalent (SWE). There are however, few datasets available to address spatial uncertainties, such as the influence of snow microstructure, at scales relevant to space-borne application. In this study we introduce measurements from SnowSAR, an airborne, dual-frequency (9.6 and 17.2 GHz) synthetic aperture radar (SAR), to evaluate high resolution (10 m) backscatter within a snow-covered tundra basin. Coincident in situ surveys at two sites characterize a generally thin snowpack (50 cm) interspersed with deeper drift features. Structure of the snowpack is found to be predominantly wind slab (65%) with smaller proportions of depth hoar underlain (35%). Objective estimates of snow microstructure (exponential correlation length; lex), show the slab layers to be 2.8 times smaller than the basal depth hoar. In situ measurements are used to parametrize the Microwave Emission Model of Layered Snowpacks (MEMLS3&a) and compare against collocated SnowSAR backscatter. The evaluation shows a scaling factor (ϕ) between 1.37 and 1.08, when applied to input of lex, minimizes MEMLS root mean squared error to

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Validation of the SMAP freeze/thaw product using categorical triple collocation
Haobo Lyu, Kaighin A. McColl, Xinlu Li, Chris Derksen, Aaron Berg, T. A. Black, Eugénie Euskirchen, M. M. Loranty, Jouni Pulliainen, Kimmo Rautiainen, Tracy Rowlandson, Alexandre Roy, A. Royer, Alexandre Langlois, Jilmarie Stephens, Hui Lu, Dara Entekhabi
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 205

Abstract The landscape freeze/thaw (FT) state plays an important role in local, regional and global weather and climate, but is difficult to monitor. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission provides hemispheric estimates of landscape FT state at a spatial resolution of approximately 36 2  km 2 . Previous validation studies of SMAP and other satellite FT products have compared satellite retrievals with point estimates obtained from in-situ measurements of air and/or soil temperature. Differences between the two are attributed to errors in the satellite retrieval. However, significant differences can occur between satellite and in-situ estimates solely due to differences in scale between the measurements; these differences can be viewed as ‘representativeness errors’ in the in-situ product, caused by using a point estimate to represent a large-scale spatial average. Most previous validation studies of landscape FT state have neglected representativeness errors entirely, resulting in conservative estimates of satellite retrieval skill. In this study, we use a variant of triple collocation called ‘categorical triple collocation’ – a technique that uses model, satellite and in-situ estimates to obtain relative performance rankings of all three products, without neglecting representativeness errors – to validate the SMAP landscape FT product. Performance rankings are obtained for nine sites at northern latitudes. We also investigate differences between using air or soil temperatures to estimate FT state, and between using morning (6 AM) or evening (6 PM) estimates. Overall, at most sites, the SMAP product or in-situ FT measurement is ranked first, and the model FT product is ranked last (although rankings vary across sites). These results suggest SMAP is adding value to model simulations, providing higher-accuracy estimates of landscape FT states compared to models and, in some cases, even in-situ estimates, when representativeness errors are properly accounted for in the validation analysis.

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Capturing agricultural soil freeze/thaw state through remote sensing and ground observations: A soil freeze/thaw validation campaign
Tracy Rowlandson, Aaron Berg, Alex Roy, Edward Kim, Renato Pardo Lara, Jarrett Powers, Kristin Lewis, Paul R. Houser, K. C. McDonald, Peter Toose, An-Ming Wu, Eugenia De Marco, Chris Derksen, Jared Entin, Andreas Colliander, Xiaolan Xu, Alex Mavrovic
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 211

Abstract A field campaign was conducted October 30th to November 13th, 2015 with the intention of capturing diurnal soil freeze/thaw state at multiple scales using ground measurements and remote sensing measurements. On four of the five sampling days, we observed a significant difference between morning (frozen scenario) and afternoon (thawed scenario) ground-based measurements of the soil relative permittivity. These results were supported by an in situ soil moisture and temperature network (installed at the scale of a spaceborne passive microwave pixel) which indicated surface soil temperatures fell below 0 °C for the same four sampling dates. Ground-based radiometers appeared to be highly sensitive to F/T conditions of the very surface of the soil and indicated normalized polarization index (NPR) values that were below the defined freezing values during the morning sampling period on all sampling dates. The Scanning L-band Active Passive (SLAP) instrumentation, flown over the study region, showed very good agreement with the ground-based radiometers, with freezing states observed on all four days that the airborne observations covered the fields with ground-based radiometers. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite had morning overpasses on three of the sampling days, and indicated frozen conditions on two of those days. It was found that >60% of the in situ network had to indicate surface temperatures below 0 °C before SMAP indicated freezing conditions. This was also true of the SLAP radiometer measurements. The SMAP, SLAP and ground-based radiometer measurements all indicated freezing conditions when soil temperature sensors installed at 5 cm depth were not frozen.

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L-band radiometry freeze/ thaw validation using air temperature and ground measurements
Matthew A. Williamson, Tracy Rowlandson, Aaron Berg, Alexandre Roy, Peter Toose, Chris Derksen, L. Arnold, Erica Tetlock
Remote Sensing Letters, Volume 9, Issue 4

Assessment of remote sensing derived freeze/thaw products from L-band radiometry requires ground validation. There is growing interest in utilizing soil moisture networks to meet this validation re...

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Forward and Inverse Radar Modeling of Terrestrial Snow Using SnowSAR Data
Jiyue Zhu, Shurun Tan, Joshua King, Chris Derksen, Juha Lemmetyinen, Leung Tsang
IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Volume 56, Issue 12

In this paper, we develop a radar snow water equivalent (SWE) retrieval algorithm based on a parameterized forward model of bicontinuous dense media radiative transfer (Bic-DMRT). The algorithm is based on retrieving the absorption loss of the snowpack which is directly proportional to the SWE. In the algorithm, Bic-DMRT is first applied to generate a lookup table (LUT) of snowpack backscattering at X- and Ku-band. Regression training is applied to the LUT to transform the dual-frequency backscatter into functions of two parameters: the scattering albedo at X-band and SWE. The background scattering is subtracted from the SnowSAR data to give the volume scattering of snow. Classification of SnowSAR data is applied to provide a priori information. Based on the obtained volume scattering and the priori information, a cost function is established to find SWE. Performance of the retrieval algorithm was tested using three sets of airborne SnowSAR data acquired over mixed areas in Finland and open tundra landscape in Canada. It is shown that the retrieval algorithm has a root-mean-square error below 30 mm of SWE and a correlation coefficient above 0.64.

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ESM-SnowMIP: assessing snow models and quantifying snow-related climate feedbacks
Gerhard Krinner, Chris Derksen, Richard Essery, M. Flanner, Stefan Hagemann, Martyn P. Clark, Alex Hall, Helmut Rott, Claire Brutel‐Vuilmet, Hyungjun Kim, Cécile B. Ménard, Lawrence Mudryk, Chad W. Thackeray, Libo Wang, Gabriele Arduini, Gianpaolo Balsamo, Paul Bartlett, Julia Boike, Aaron Boone, F. Chéruy, Jeanne Colin, Matthias Cuntz, Yongjiu Dai, Bertrand Decharme, Jeff Derry, Agnès Ducharne, Emanuel Dutra, Xing Fang, Charles Fierz, Josephine Ghattas, Yeugeniy M. Gusev, Vanessa Haverd, Anna Kontu, Matthieu Lafaysse, R. M. Law, David M. Lawrence, Weiping Li, Thomas Marke, Danny Marks, Martin Ménégoz, О. Н. Насонова, Tomoko Nitta, Michio Niwano, John W. Pomeroy, M. S. Raleigh, Gerd Schaedler, В. А. Семенов, Tanya Smirnova, Tobias Stacke, Ulrich Strasser, Sean Svenson, Dmitry Turkov, Tao Wang, Nander Wever, Hua Yuan, Wenyan Zhou, Dan Zhu
Geoscientific Model Development, Volume 11, Issue 12

Abstract. This paper describes ESM-SnowMIP, an international coordinated modelling effort to evaluate current snow schemes, including snow schemes that are included in Earth system models, in a wide variety of settings against local and global observations. The project aims to identify crucial processes and characteristics that need to be improved in snow models in the context of local- and global-scale modelling. A further objective of ESM-SnowMIP is to better quantify snow-related feedbacks in the Earth system. Although it is not part of the sixth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6), ESM-SnowMIP is tightly linked to the CMIP6-endorsed Land Surface, Snow and Soil Moisture Model Intercomparison (LS3MIP).


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Plot-scale assessment of soil freeze/thaw detection and variability with impedance probes: implications for remote sensing validation networks
Matthew A. Williamson, Justin Adams, Aaron Berg, Chris Derksen, Peter Toose, Anne Walker
Hydrology Research, Volume 49, Issue 1

Abstract Several large in-situ soil moisture-monitoring networks currently exist over seasonally frozen regions that may have use for the validation of remote sensing soil freeze/thaw (F/T) products. However, further understanding of how the existing network instrumentation responds to changes in near surface soil F/T is recommended. This case study describes the results of a small plot-scale (7 × 7 m) study from November 2013 through April 2014 instrumented with 36 impedance probes. Soil temperature and real dielectric permittivity ϵr' were measured every 15 minutes during F/T transition periods at shallow soil depths (0–10 cm). Categorical soil temperature and real dielectric permittivity techniques were used to define the soil F/T state during these periods. Results demonstrate that both methods for detecting soil F/T have strong agreement (84.7–95.6%) during the fall freeze but weak agreement (53.3–60.9%) during the spring thaw. Bootstrapping results demonstrated both techniques showed a mean difference within ±1.0°C and ±1.4 ϵr' between the standard 5 cm below surface measurement depth and probes at 2, 10 and integrated 0–5.7 cm depths installed within the same study plot. Overall this study demonstrates that the Hydra Probe offers promise for near surface soil F/T detection using existing soil moisture monitoring networks particularly for the fall freeze.

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Validation of the SMAP freeze/thaw product using categorical triple collocation
Xinlu Li, Kaighin A. McColl, Haobo Lyu, Xiaolan Xu, Chris Derksen, Hui Lu, Dara Entekhabi
2017 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS)

Landscape freeze/thaw (FT) state is a key variable in Earth's carbon cycle. NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, launched in January 2015, provides global retrievals of FT state every two to three days. Validating SMAP FT observations with in-situ observations is difficult due to the substantial scale mismatch between a point estimate and a satellite footprint, inducing “representativeness errors” in the in-situ observations. Triple collocation (TC) is a validation technique that addresses this problem by combining estimates from in-situ, model and spaceborne estimates to obtain error estimates for all three products, without assuming that any product is error-free. Unfortunately, it fails when applied to binary or categorical variables, such as landscape FT state. In this study, we use a new variant of TC — categorical triple collocation (CTC) — that can be applied to binary variables, to validate the SMAP FT product across northern land regions (>45N).