Retrieval of snow grain size over Greenland from MODIS

Alexei Lyapustin, Marco Tedesco, Yujie Wang, Teruo Aoki, Masahiro Hori, Alexander Kokhanovsky

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81 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a new automatic algorithm to derive optical snow grain size at 1 km resolution using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) measurements. The retrieval is conceptually based on an analytical asymptotic radiative transfer model which predicts spectral bidirectional snow reflectance as a function of the grain size and ice absorption. The snow grains are modeled as fractal rather than spherical particles in order to account for their irregular shape. The analytical form of solution leads to an explicit and fast retrieval algorithm. The time series analysis of derived grain size shows a good sensitivity to snow melting and snow precipitation events. Pre-processing is performed by a Multi-Angle Implementation of Atmospheric Correction (MAIAC) algorithm, which includes gridding MODIS data to 1 km resolution, water vapor retrieval, cloud masking and an atmospheric correction. MAIAC cloud mask is a new algorithm based on a time series of gridded MODIS measurements and an image-based rather than pixel-based processing. Extensive processing of MODIS TERRA data over Greenland shows a robust discrimination of clouds over bright snow and ice. Because in-situ grain size measurements over Greenland were not available at the time of this work, the validation was performed using data of Aoki et al. (Aoki, T., Hori, M., Motoyoshi, H., Tanikawa, T., Hachikubo, A., Sugiura, K., et al. (2007). ADEOS-II/GLI snow/ice products - Part II: Validation results using GLI and MODIS data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 111, 274-290) collected at Barrow (Alaska, USA), and Saroma, Abashiri and Nakashibetsu (Japan) in 2001-2005. The retrievals correlate well with measurements in the range of radii ~ 0.1-1 mm, although retrieved optical diameter may be about a factor of 1.5 lower than the physical measured diameter. As part of validation analysis for Greenland, the derived grain size from MODIS over selected sites in 2004 was compared to the microwave brightness temperature measurements of SSM/I radiometer which is sensitive to the amount of liquid water in the snowpack. The comparison showed a good qualitative agreement, with both datasets detecting two main periods of snowmelt. Additionally, MODIS grain size was compared with predictions of the snow model CROCUS driven by measurements of the automatic weather stations of the Greenland Climate Network. We found that the MODIS value is on average a factor of two smaller than CROCUS grain size. This result agrees with the direct validation analysis indicating that the snow reflectance model may need a "calibration" factor of ~ 1.5 for the retrieved grain size to match the physical snow grain size. Overall, the agreement between CROCUS and MODIS results was satisfactory, in particular before and during the first melting period in mid-June. Following detailed time series analysis of snow grain size for four permanent sites, the paper presents maps of this important parameter over the Greenland ice sheet for the March-September period of 2004.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1976-1987
Number of pages12
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


  • Greenland
  • Retrieval algorithm
  • Snow grain size
  • Snow melting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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