Soil Moisture & Snow Properties Determination with GNSS in Alpine Environments: Challenges, Status, and Perspectives
Moisture content in the soil and snow in the alpine environment is an important factor, not only for environmentally oriented research, but also for decision making in agriculture and hazard management. Current observation techniques quantifying soil moisture or characterizing a snow pack often require dedicated instrumentation that measures either at point scale or at very large (satellite pixel) scale. Given the heterogeneity of both snow cover and soil moisture in alpine terrain, observations of the spatial distribution of moisture and snow-cover are lacking at spatial scales relevant for alpine hydrometeorology. This paper provides an overview of the challenges and status of the determination of soil moisture and snow properties in alpine environments. Current measurement techniques and newly proposed ones, based on the reception of reflected Global Navigation Satellite Signals (i.e., GNSS Reflectometry or GNSS-R), or the use of laser scanning are reviewed, and the perspectives offered by these new techniques to fill the current gap in the instrumentation level are discussed. Some key enabling technologies including the availability of modernized GNSS signals and GNSS array beamforming techniques are also considered and discussed.