Terrestrial Water Cycle Seminar- Dr. Richard Kelly

University of Waterloo, Dept. of Geography and Environmental Management

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Seminar Title: Radar observations of the Hudson Bay Lowlands: a two-season winter experiment to characterize sub-Arctic seasonal snow and ice using remote sensing

Dr. Richard Kelly
Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change
Professor, Department of Geography & Environmental Management
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Characterizing seasonal snow accumulation at local to regional scales has been a long-term goal of the remote sensing and hydrology science communities. With recent increases in variability of northern hemisphere snow cover, there is a pressing need to better quantify local to regional snow accumulation. While spaceborne passive microwave remote sensing instruments have made significant advances in snow water equivalent (SWE) estimation at regional scales, active microwave instruments are capable of observations of snow at higher spatial resolutions than can currently be achieved with passive microwave instruments. However, fundamental questions have persisted regarding the practical sensitivity of radar observations to snow accumulation, specifically at X and Ku-band frequencies.

During the 2009-2011 winter seasons, an experiment called the Canadian CoReH2O Snow and Ice experiment was conducted to investigate the seasonally varying radar response of snow and ice in the Hudson Bay lowlands. This region contains a variety of land surface types from shrub tundra, to wetland fen, to open canopy forest to open lakes and to Hudson Bay sea ice. Ground-based active microwave measurements of seasonal snow and ice accumulation at 9.5 and 17.2 GHz frequencies (X and Ku-band respectively) in fully polarimetric mode were conducted to explore the active microwave sensitivities for these different terrains. Supporting measurements were made and included conventional snow and lake ice surveys, measurements of snow and ice electrical properties, meteorological observations, and supporting satellite active and passive microwave observations from existing satellite based systems. Together, these measurements have enabled us to explore the radar measurement sensitivity to the seasonally varying snow and ice.

This presentation will focus on the radar measurement response of snow and ice and what has been learned about the Ku and X-band sensitivity to tundra targets. Ku-band observations show a clear sensitivity to SWE in both tundra and fen snow packs, and also within the open canopy forest site. X-band responses are strongly controlled by snow-ground complex surface roughness effects and relative permittivity properties of the soil. The snow on lake ice response is more complex and requires knowledge of the fractional mixing of ice and snow. Overall, the experiment is enabling us to address several of the key questions regarding the suitability of Ku and X-band radar measurements for estimating SWE at local to regional scales.


1 The Cold Regions Hydrology High-Resolution Observatory’s (CoReH2O) is a candidate mission in the Earth Explorer programme at ESA designed to provide detailed radar observations of snow, ice and water cycle variables for improved characterization of the cryosphere.




Richard Kelly is a Professor of Geography at the University of Waterloo. He is the Associate Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3), the theme leader for the Observations and Modeling Group in IC3, and a member of the Department of Geography and Environmental Management. His research interests are in snow and ice hydrology and especially in the measurement of snow and ice from Earth observing remote sensing instruments. His research has taken him to N. America, Europe, and Asia to conduct field research. With Professor Claude Duguay at Waterloo, he is the co-director of the Cryospheric Remote Sensing Facility, a Canada Foundation for Innovation funded radar scatterometer facility. Dr. Kelly’s current research projects include the science support of ESA’s CoReH2O satellite mission, the science development and management of the JAXA standard snow depth/water equivalent product for AMSR2 on GCOM-W1, an experiment to leverage social media for snow mapping (snowtweets.org), and an exploration of the relationships between seasonal snow and carbon productivity in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. He is a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council funded scholar and is fortunate to supervise four talented graduate students.

Dr. Kelly completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester, UK, his masters degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada and his Ph.D. at the University of Bristol, UK all in Physical Geography. He was a lecturer Physical Geography at Birkbeck College, University of London (1994-2002), an Associate Research scientist at UMBC/NASA GSFC (2000-2005) and an Associate Professor/Professor in Geography at the University of Waterloo from 2006 to the present. He was the President of the Eastern Snow Conference between 2009-2010 and is an Associate Editor for IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, and a special guest editor for Hydrological Processes. He has authored and co-authored journal papers and has edited a book “Spatial Modelling of the Terrestrial Environment” and co-authored a text book entitled “The Cryosphere and Global Environmental Change”. He lives in Waterloo, Ontario with his family.