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Estimating snow water equivalent using cosmic‐ray neutron sensors from the COSMOS‐UK network

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  • John R. Wallbank
  • Steven J. Cole
  • Robert J. Moore
  • Seonaid R. Anderson
  • Edward J. Mellor
Article numbere14048
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/05/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Hydrological Processes
Issue number5
Number of pages17
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/05/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The intensity of cosmic ray neutrons is inversely correlated with the amount of water present in the surrounding environment. This effect is already employed by around 50 neutron sensors in the COSMOS-UK network to provide daily estimates of soil moisture across the UK. Here, these same sensors are used to automatically provide estimates of snow water equivalent (SWE). Lying snow is typically ephemeral and of shallow depth for most parts of the UK. Moreover, soil moisture is usually high and variable, which acts to increase uncertainties in the SWE estimate. Nevertheless, even under such challenging conditions, both above ground and buried cosmic ray neutron sensors are still able to produce potentially useful SWE estimates. Triple collocation analysis suggests typical uncertainties of less than around 4 mm under UK snow conditions.