Satellite derived surface wetness changes and permafrost (Elise Richter Programm)


2010-03-01 – 2012-02-29

The distribution of Permafrost depends to a large extent on climatic factors. These regions are thus specifically affected by climate change. Long-term changes in air temperature influence frozen ground temperature, active layer depth and permafrost thickness. Parameters which influence thermal conductivity are of importance. Those are e.g. soil water content, snow properties and vegetation coverage. The seasonal variability of soil moisture with respect to permafrost features will be analyzed within this project. Near surface soil moisture can be detected by microwave sensors. Satellites can deliver global datasets which are suitable for long-term monitoring.Hydrology and thus soil moisture content is closely connected to temporal and spatial snowmelt patterns. Snowmelt timing as well as parameters such as snow depth underlie changes due to climate change. Special focus is therefore on the analyses of the time period directly after the snowmelt. The area of interest comprises the entire pan-arctic/boreal environment.The aim is the development of a method for the extraction of permafrost relevant parameters based on satellite derived near surface soil moisture information. Since the variability of snowmelt timing needs to be considered, a synergistic use of measurements from different sensors is required. Several scatterometer datasets will be employed (soil moisture from Metop ASCAT and ERS Scatterometer and snowmelt from QuikScat).The project is based on work within preceding projects (especially Hertha Firnberg research fellowship) and is connected to the ongoing ESA DUE Permafrost project which is coordinated by the applicant. This provides an ideal base for integration of further datasets (satellite data products and ground measurements).The proposed research will be carried out within the first phase of the project. The habilitation will be compiled based on journal publications and book contributions within the second year. Its completion is the overall objective within this Elise Richter project.

Project manager