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Comparison of Snow Cover from Satellite and Numerical Weather Prediction Models in the Northern Hemisphere and Northern Europe

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  • 1 Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
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Abstract

Snow cover has a strong effect on the surface and lower atmosphere in NWP models. Because the progress of in situ observations has stalled, satellite-based snow analyses are becoming increasingly important. Currently, there exist several products that operationally map global or continental snow cover. In this study, satellite-based snow cover analyses from NOAA, NASA, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and NWP snow analyses from the High-Resolution Limited-Area Model (HIRLAM) and ECMWF, were compared using data from January to June 2006. Because no analyses were independent and since available in situ measurements were already used in the NWP analyses, no independent ground truth was available and only the consistency between analyses could be compared. Snow analyses from NOAA, NASA, and ECMWF were similar, but the analysis from NASA was greatly hampered by clouds. HIRLAM and EUMETSAT deviated most from other analyses. Even though the analysis schemes of HIRLAM and ECMWF were quite similar, the resulting snow analyses were quite dissimilar, because ECMWF used the satellite information of snow cover in the form of NOAA analyses, while HIRLAM used none. The differences are especially prominent in areas around the snow edge where few in situ observations are available. This suggests that NWP snow analyses based only on in situ measurements would greatly benefit from inclusion of satellite-based snow cover information.

Corresponding author address: Otto Hyvärinen, Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 503, FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland. Email: otto.hyvarinen@fmi.fi

Abstract

Snow cover has a strong effect on the surface and lower atmosphere in NWP models. Because the progress of in situ observations has stalled, satellite-based snow analyses are becoming increasingly important. Currently, there exist several products that operationally map global or continental snow cover. In this study, satellite-based snow cover analyses from NOAA, NASA, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and NWP snow analyses from the High-Resolution Limited-Area Model (HIRLAM) and ECMWF, were compared using data from January to June 2006. Because no analyses were independent and since available in situ measurements were already used in the NWP analyses, no independent ground truth was available and only the consistency between analyses could be compared. Snow analyses from NOAA, NASA, and ECMWF were similar, but the analysis from NASA was greatly hampered by clouds. HIRLAM and EUMETSAT deviated most from other analyses. Even though the analysis schemes of HIRLAM and ECMWF were quite similar, the resulting snow analyses were quite dissimilar, because ECMWF used the satellite information of snow cover in the form of NOAA analyses, while HIRLAM used none. The differences are especially prominent in areas around the snow edge where few in situ observations are available. This suggests that NWP snow analyses based only on in situ measurements would greatly benefit from inclusion of satellite-based snow cover information.

Corresponding author address: Otto Hyvärinen, Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 503, FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland. Email: otto.hyvarinen@fmi.fi

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