THE CEOS DATABASE : Missions, Instruments and Measurements
DomainTerrestrialDescriptionTerrestrial snow properties are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation regimes and are recognised to provide a fundamental indicator of climate variability and change. They also provide a significant feedback effect in a warming climate. Projected loss of seasonal snow extent will strongly affect planetary albedo, soil moisture, growth conditions for vegetation, flood potential and other parameters that influence the surface water and energy balances and have significant societal impacts. Changes in the timing, rate and magnitude of precipitation directly impact the area, extent, depth, water equivalent and wetness of lying snow. These changes will modify land-atmosphere fluxes through changes in latent energy sinks, surface roughness, boundary-layer stability and other processes, in addition to albedo. Snow depth and snow-water equivalent also affect soil temperatures and other characteristics of the ground, including permafrost. [GCOS-195 6.3.5]
Full NameSnow cover
Satellite Signficant ContributionYes
GCOS Actions
DescriptionWhoTime FramePerformance IndicatorCost Implications
Obtain integrated analyses of snow cover over both hemispheres.Space agencies and research agencies in cooperation with WMO GCW and CliC, with advice from TOPC,ContinuousAvailability of snow-cover products for both hemispheres.1-10M US$ (Mainly by Annex-I Parties).
*GCOS-195 Status Categories: Category A: Action completed, perhaps exceeding reasonable expectations. Very good progress on ongoing tasks. Category B: Action largely completed according to expectation. Good progress on ongoing tasks. Category C: Moderate progress overall, although progress may be good for some part of the action. Category D: Limited progress overall, although progress may be moderate or good for some part of the action. Category E: Very little or no progress, or deterioration rather than progress.
GCOS Products
Related Measurements/
from CEOS DB
T.2Snow areal extent, supplemented by snow water equivalentSnow areal extent
Snow water equivalent
Snow cover
Snow melting status (wet/dry)
Snow water equivalent
Snow albedo
Snow detection (mask)
Snow surface temperature
Snow Grain Size
CEOS Response[T16 (T.2)]

2015 Update: Global 24 km snow cover estimates for the northern hemisphere using the Rutgers method are now operational through the NOAA Climate Data Records program. There are no routine products on snow cover for the southern hemisphere.

The ESA funded Satellite Snow Product Intercomparison and Evaluation Experiment (SnowPEx) intercompars and validates hemispheric and global satellite snow products for estimation of temporal trends of the seasonal snow cover and assessing their accuracy. More than 15 snow extent products from optical satellites and snow water equivalent products from passive microwave data are participating in SnowPEx. At the 2nd International Satellite Snow Product Intercomparison Workshop to be held in Boulder, Colo. (USA), from 14-16 September 2015, first intercomparison results will presented and discussed.

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