Snowmelt can be a significant contributor to major floods, and hence updated snow information is very important to flood forecasting services. This study assesses whether operational runoff simulations could be improved by applying satellite-derived snow covered area (SCA) from both optical and radar sensors. Currently the HBV model is used for runoff forecasting in Norway, and satellite-observed SCA is used qualitatively but not directly in the model. Three catchments in southern Norway are studied using data from 1995 to 2002. The results show that satellite-observed SCA can be used to detect when the models do not simulate the snow reservoir correctly. Detecting errors early in the snowmelt season will help the forecasting services to update and correct the models before possible damaging floods. The method requires model calibration against SCA as well as runoff. Time-series from the satellite sensors NOAA AVHRR and ERS SAR are used. Of these, AVHRR shows good correlation with the simulated SCA, and SAR less so. Comparison of simultaneous data from AVHRR, SAR and Landsat ETM+ for May 2000 shows good inter-correlation. Of a total satellite-observed area of 1,088 km2, AVHRR observed a SCA of 823 km2 and SAR 720 km2, as compared to 889 km2 using ETM+.

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