The availability of in situ snow water equivalent (SWE), snowmelt and run-off measurements is still very limited especially in remote areas as the density of operational stations and field observations is often scarce and usually costly, labour-intense and/or risky. With remote sensing products, spatially distributed information on snow is potentially available, but often lacks the required spatial or temporal requirements for hydrological applications. For the assurance of a high spatial and temporal resolution, however, it is often necessary to combine several methods like Earth Observation (EO), modelling and in situ approaches. Such a combination was targeted within the business applications demonstration project SnowSense (2015–2018), co-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), where we designed, developed and demonstrated an operational snow hydrological service. During the run-time of the project, the entire service was demonstrated for the island of Newfoundland, Canada. The SnowSense service, developed during the demonstration project, is based on three pillars, including (i) newly developed in situ snow monitoring stations based on signals of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS); (ii) EO snow cover products on the snow cover extent and on information whether the snow is dry or wet; and (iii) an integrated physically based hydrological model. The key element of the service is the novel GNSS based in situ sensor, using two static low-cost antennas with one being mounted on the ground and the other one above the snow cover. This sensor setup enables retrieving the snow parameters SWE and liquid water content (LWC) in the snowpack in parallel, using GNSS carrier phase measurements and signal strength information. With the combined approach of the SnowSense service, it is possible to provide spatially distributed SWE to assess run-off and to provide relevant information for hydropower plant management in a high spatial and temporal resolution. This is particularly needed for so far non, or only sparsely equipped catchments in remote areas. We present the results and validation of (i) the GNSS in situ sensor setup for SWE and LWC measurements at the well-equipped study site Forêt Montmorency near Quebec, Canada and (ii) the entire combined in situ, EO and modelling SnowSense service resulting in assimilated SWE maps and run-off information for two different large catchments in Newfoundland, Canada.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited