Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Model description paper
11 Jul 2018
Model description paper |  | 11 Jul 2018

SMRT: an active–passive microwave radiative transfer model for snow with multiple microstructure and scattering formulations (v1.0)

Ghislain Picard, Melody Sandells, and Henning Löwe

Abstract. The Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) thermal emission and backscatter model was developed to determine uncertainties in forward modeling through intercomparison of different model ingredients. The model differs from established models by the high degree of flexibility in switching between different electromagnetic theories, representations of snow microstructure, and other modules involved in various calculation steps. SMRT v1.0 includes the dense media radiative transfer theory (DMRT), the improved Born approximation (IBA), and independent Rayleigh scatterers to compute the intrinsic electromagnetic properties of a snow layer. In the case of IBA, five different formulations of the autocorrelation function to describe the snow microstructure characteristics are available, including the sticky hard sphere model, for which close equivalence between the IBA and DMRT theories has been shown here. Validation is demonstrated against established theories and models. SMRT was used to identify that several former studies conducting simulations with in situ measured snow properties are now comparable and moreover appear to be quantitatively nearly equivalent. This study also proves that a third parameter is needed in addition to density and specific surface area to characterize the microstructure. The paper provides a comprehensive description of the mathematical basis of SMRT and its numerical implementation in Python. Modularity supports model extensions foreseen in future versions comprising other media (e.g., sea ice, frozen lakes), different scattering theories, rough surface models, or new microstructure models.

Short summary
The Snow Microwave Radiative Transfer (SMRT) is a novel model developed to calculate how microwaves are scattered and emitted by snow. The model is built from separate, interconnecting modules to make it easy to compare different aspects of the theory. SMRT is the first model to allow a choice of how to represent the microstructure of the snow, which is extremely important, and has been used to unite multiple previous studies. This model will ultimately be used to observe snow from space.