Eurac Research (Italy)

Monitoring the water resources stored in the snow of the Andean Cordillera represents a challenge due to various environmental factors, including high altitudes, severe weather conditions, limited infrastructure, rapid snowmelt, and complex accumulation and melting processes. This project focused on monitoring snow cover in four important basins of the Cordillera, namely the Rio Maipo and Aconcagua in Chile, and the Rio Mendoza and Tunuyàn in Argentina. Snow is a crucial water resource for these basins, influencing the economy, livelihoods, and ecosystems downstream. During the project, daily datasets of snow cover area (SCA) and snow water equivalent (SWE) with spatial resolution of 50 meters were developed for the last five hydrological seasons (01/04/2018 to 31/03/2023).

The dataset combines multi-source remote sensing observations and in situ data, offering a detailed spatio-temporal representation that can contribute to enhanced understanding and management of water resources in the Andes. First, daily SCA was derived by exploiting multi-source optical data. Multi-temporal information on snow pattern repetition was exploited to overcome the presence of gaps due to cloud obstruction or missing high-resolution data acquisitions. Secondly, daily SCA was integrated with a degree-day model to reconstruct SWE. While partially dependent on in situ temperature and snow-depth/SWE observations, the approach does not need spatialised precipitation, which often represents a high uncertainty source (especially in poorly-monitored regions like the Andes), as input. The dataset therefore holds a unique value and can be exploited for further hydrological studies.


Main outputs: 

The main output of the project is daily, 50 m resolution the SWE dataset. SWE is expressed in mm and SCA can be easily derived by applying a thresholding (SWE >0). 

In addition, workshops were organised towards the beginning of the project (from 4 to 15 September 2023) at the Universidad de Cile (Santiago, Chile) and IANIGLA-CONICET (Mendoza, Argentina). These events represented an opportunity to better understand the needs of the local users and researchers, receive their feedback and recommendations, and share our activities with a view to establishing possible future collaborations.

Contact: Dr. Carlo Marin, Lead – Cryosphere Team, Institute for Earth Observation, Eurac Research: carlo.marin [at]

Image by Carlo Marin

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