New snow satellites

New snow satellites

February 7, 2005

A new ESA project will study how a new type of radar satellite can be used to improve measurements of snow water equivalent. Project leader is Norut IT.

ESA ESTEC has signed the contract with Norut IT to model and study the sensitivity of a new type of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that transmits at Ku-band frequencies (12-20 GHz). The current C-band (5.4GHz) radars are not particularly suited for the purpose of measuring snow water equivalent. Ku-band is a more favourable frequency.

Remote sensing of snow Norut IT has a long track record in satellite remote sensing of the cryosphere (i.e. the part of the earth surface that is covered by water in solid state). In several projects the institute has demonstrated how snow parameters such as snow covered area, snow wetness and snow water equivalent can be effectively retrieved from satellite data. These parameters are subsequently used in climate change monitoring, flood surveillance or in hydrological applications to monitor hydropower catchments. The snow water equivalent (SWE is the product of snow depth and density) is a particularly important parameter since it provides information about the total content of water in the snow, that can be used for e.g. hydropower production. Efficient remote sensing of this parameter is highly desirable, in particular by the hydropower business.

Norwegian project group Project partners are Norut IT and the University of Oslo, Institute of Geosciences with Prof. Svein-Erik Hamran. Norut is the main contractor and will deliver software implementations of models and analysis. University of Oslo is a sub-contractor and will contribute with numerical modelling of radar backscattering from snow at Ku-band frequencies. The project will deliver recommendations to ESA on selection of frequency and other critical system parameters for a future Ku-band SAR satellite. The project will also explore other applications for the sensor such as remote sensing of glaciers and sea ice.

The total budget is 135 k Euro and the project will last for 1 ½ year.

Contact Eirik Malnes, tel. (+47) 77 62 94 51