Mapping snow depth within a tundra ecosystem using multiscale observations and Bayesian methods
- 1Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, MS 74R-316C, Berkeley, CA 94720-8126, USA
- 2Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 306 Tanana Loop, Fairbanks, AK 99775-5860, USA
- 3International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
Abstract. This paper compares and integrates different strategies to characterize the variability of end-of-winter snow depth and its relationship to topography in ice-wedge polygon tundra of Arctic Alaska. Snow depth was measured using in situ snow depth probes and estimated using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys and the photogrammetric detection and ranging (phodar) technique with an unmanned aerial system (UAS). We found that GPR data provided high-precision estimates of snow depth (RMSE = 2.9 cm), with a spatial sampling of 10 cm along transects. Phodar-based approaches provided snow depth estimates in a less laborious manner compared to GPR and probing, while yielding a high precision (RMSE = 6.0 cm) and a fine spatial sampling (4 cm × 4 cm). We then investigated the spatial variability of snow depth and its correlation to micro- and macrotopography using the snow-free lidar digital elevation map (DEM) and the wavelet approach. We found that the end-of-winter snow depth was highly variable over short (several meter) distances, and the variability was correlated with microtopography. Microtopographic lows (i.e., troughs and centers of low-centered polygons) were filled in with snow, which resulted in a smooth and even snow surface following macrotopography. We developed and implemented a Bayesian approach to integrate the snow-free lidar DEM and multiscale measurements (probe and GPR) as well as the topographic correlation for estimating snow depth over the landscape. Our approach led to high-precision estimates of snow depth (RMSE = 6.0 cm), at 0.5 m resolution and over the lidar domain (750 m × 700 m).