Microwave scattering coefficient of snow in MEMLS and DMRT-ML revisited: the relevance of sticky hard spheres and tomography-based estimates of stickiness
Abstract. The description of snow microstructure in microwave models is often simplified to facilitate electromagnetic calculations. Within dense media radiative transfer (DMRT), the microstructure is commonly described by sticky hard spheres (SHS). An objective mapping of real snow onto SHS is however missing which prevents measured input parameters from being used for DMRT. In contrast, the microwave emission model of layered snowpacks (MEMLS) employs a conceptually different approach, based on the two-point correlation function which is accessible by tomography. Here we show the equivalence of both electromagnetic approaches by reformulating their microstructural models in a common framework. Using analytical results for the two-point correlation function of hard spheres, we show that the scattering coefficient in both models only differs by a factor which is close to unity, weakly dependent on ice volume fraction and independent of other microstructural details. Additionally, our analysis provides an objective retrieval method for the SHS parameters (diameter and stickiness) from tomography images. For a comprehensive data set we demonstrate the variability of stickiness and compare the SHS diameter to the optical equivalent diameter. Our results confirm the necessity of a large grain-size scaling when relating both diameters in the non-sticky case, as previously suggested by several authors.