Evaluating Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) model emissivities with 89 to 243GHz observations of Arctic tundra snow

Kirsty Wivell*, Stuart Fox, Melody Sandells, Chawn Harlow, Richard Essery, Nick Rutter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Improved modelling of snow emissivity is needed to improve the assimilation of surface-sensitive atmospheric sounding observations from satellites in polar regions for numerical weather prediction (NWP). This paper evaluates emissivity simulated with the Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) model using observations of Arctic tundra snow at frequencies between 89 and 243 GHz. Measurements of snow correlation length, density and layer thickness were used as input to SMRT, and an optimisation routine was used to assess the impact of each parameter on simulations of emissivity when compared to a set of Lambertian emissivity spectra, retrieved from observations of tundra snow from three flights of the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) aircraft. Probability distributions returned by the optimisation routine demonstrate parameter uncertainties and the sensitivity of simulations to the different snow parameters. Results showed that SMRT was capable of reproducing a range of observed emissivities between 89 and 243 GHz. Varying correlation length alone allowed SMRT to capture much of the variability in the emissivity spectra; however, MAE (MAPE) decreased from 0.018 (3.0 %) to 0.0078 (1.2 %) overall when the thickness of the snow layers was also varied. When all three parameters were varied, simulations were similarly sensitive to both correlation length and density, although the influence of density was most evident when comparing spectra from snowpacks with and without surface snow. Simulations were most sensitive to surface snow and wind slab parameters, while sensitivity to depth hoar depended on the thickness and scattering strength of the layers above, demonstrating the importance of representing all three parameters for multi-layer snowpacks when modelling emissivity spectra. This work demonstrates the ability of SMRT to simulate snow emissivity at these frequencies and is a key step in the progress towards modelling emissivity for data assimilation in NWP.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4325-4341
Number of pages17
JournalThe Cryosphere
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2023

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