(Near) Real-Time Snow Water Equivalent Observation Using GNSS Refractometry and RTKLIB

Sensors (Basel). 2022 Sep 13;22(18):6918. doi: 10.3390/s22186918.


Global navigation satellite system (GNSS) refractometry enables automated and continuous in situ snow water equivalent (SWE) observations. Such accurate and reliable in situ data are needed for calibration and validation of remote sensing data and could enhance snow hydrological monitoring and modeling. In contrast to previous studies which relied on post-processing with the highly sophisticated Bernese GNSS processing software, the feasibility of in situ SWE determination in post-processing and (near) real time using the open-source GNSS processing software RTKLIB and GNSS refractometry based on the biased coordinate Up component is investigated here. Available GNSS observations from a fixed, high-end GNSS refractometry snow monitoring setup in the Swiss Alps are reprocessed for the season 2016/17 to investigate the applicability of RTKLIB in post-processing. A fixed, low-cost setup provides continuous SWE estimates in near real time at a low cost for the complete 2021/22 season. Additionally, a mobile, (near) real-time and low-cost setup was designed and evaluated in March 2020. The fixed and mobile multi-frequency GNSS setups demonstrate the feasibility of (near) real-time SWE estimation using GNSS refractometry. Compared to state-of-the-art manual SWE observations, a mean relative bias below 5% is achieved for (near) real-time and post-processed SWE estimation using RTKLIB.

Keywords: GNSS; RTK; RTKLIB; SWE; emlid; global navigation satellite systems; real time; refractometry; snow water equivalent.

MeSH terms

  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Refractometry*
  • Seasons
  • Snow*
  • Water


  • Water

Grant support

This project was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF P400P2_199328/1).