A comparison of passive microwave images from the Nimbus-7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) and visual images from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) of the Upper Colorado River Basin shows that passive microwave satellite imagery can be used to determine the extent of the snow cover. Eight cloud-free DMSP images throughout the winter of 1985-1986 show the extent of the snowpack, which, when compared to the corresponding SMMR images, determine the threshold microwave characteristics for snow-covered pixels. With these characteristics, the 27 sequential SMMR images give a unique view of the temporal history of the snow cover extent through the first half of the water year. Beginning mid-November, the snow-covered area rapidly increases from near zero to 80 percent by the middle of January. During late February the snow-covered area decreases as a result of basin-wide warming. The microwave determinations initially overestimate the decrease in snow cover, as a result of liquid water in the snowpack, but the return of cooler temperatures restores the veracity of the passive microwave determinations.
- Received January 12, 1989.
- © IWA Publishing 1989