C-SNOW - Observing the Northern Hemisphere snow mass with Sentinel-1

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Context and objectives

The total mass of snow that is stored in the world’s mountains is still unknown. Estimates from local measurements are unrealistic where they are sparse, weather models poorly estimate snowfall, and current remote sensing observations have inherent limitations. Yet, accurate snow mass estimates are critically needed to provide information on the associated water resources. More than a billion people rely on water from snow, most of which originates in the Northern Hemisphere mountain ranges. C-SNOW aims at mapping the snow mass in the Northern Hemisphere mountains based on satellite observations from the ESA and Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission. Sentinel-1 routinely offers high-resolution radar measurements at C-band (5.4 GHz). With an innovative algorithm, changes in these radar measurements over time can be translated into snow accumulation or depletion. Coincident with the Sentinel-1 algorithm development, field campaigns will be organized in the Rocky Mountains (Idaho and Colorado, USA). Several replicas of the Sentinel-1 radar sensor will be built and mounted on towers and snowmobiles to survey snow sites. This will allow us to unravel into detail the impacts of snow conditions, and their changes over time, on radar measurements. These insights will be exploited to improve the Sentinel-1 algorithm for estimating snow mass.

Project outcome

Expected scientific results

An optimized algorithm for the retrieval of snow depth and snow mass from Sentinel-1 C-band radar observations. Quantification of key impacts on C-band radar sensitivity to snow, obtained from field experiments.

Expected products and services

Snow depth and mass observations over the Northern Hemisphere mountains at 1-km² spatial and less than weekly temporal resolution from Sentinel-1. The data will be distributed free of charge through the project website.

Potential users

Snow science community, numerical weather prediction centers, Meteorological offices, hydropower companies, water managers, avalanche control centers, tourism, agriculture, industry


STEREO researcher goes on snow expedition along with NASA

Un chercheur STEREO part en expédition avec la NASA

STEREO-onderzoeker vertrekt samen met NASA op sneeuwexpeditie

C-SNOW live from the Rockies via Instagram

C-SNOW en direct des Rocheuses avec Instagram

C-SNOW live vanuit de Rockies via Instagram

STEREO researchers publish a method for measuring snow depth by satellite in Nature Communications

Des chercheurs STEREO publient dans 'Nature Communications' une méthode de mesure de l'épaisseur de neige par satellite

STEREO-onderzoekers publiceren een methode voor satellietgebaseerde sneeuwdieptemetingen in Nature Communications