Projections of snow water equivalent using a process-based energy balance snow model in southwestern British Columbia

Stephen R. Sobie ◽  
Trevor Q. Murdock

Abstract Information about snow water equivalent in southwestern British Columbia is used for flood management, agriculture, fisheries, and water resource planning. This study evaluates whether a process-based, energy balance snow model supplied with high-resolution statistically downscaled temperature and precipitation data can effectively simulate snow water equivalent (SWE) in the mountainous terrain of this region. Daily values of SWE from 1951 to 2018 are simulated at 1 km resolution and evaluated using a reanalysis SWE product (SNODAS), manual snow survey measurements at 41 sites, and automated snow pillows at six locations in the study region. Simulated SWE matches observed inter-annual variability well (R2 > 0.8 for annual maximum SWE) but peak SWE biases of 20% to 40% occur at some sites in the study domain, and higher biases occur where observed SWE is very low. Modelled SWE displays lower bias compared to SNODAS reanalysis at most manual survey locations. Future projections for the study area are produced using 12 downscaled climate model simulations and used to illustrate the impacts of climate change on SWE at 1°C, 2°C, and 3°C of warming. Model results are used to quantify spring SWE changes at different elevations of the Whistler mountain ski resort, and the sensitivity of annual peak SWE in Metro Vancouver municipal watersheds to moderate temperature increases. The results illustrate both the potential utility of a process-based snow model, and identify areas where the input meteorological variables could be improved.

Water ◽  
2020 ◽  
Vol 12 (12) ◽  
pp. 3449
Julien Augas ◽  
Kian Abbasnezhadi ◽  
Alain N. Rousseau ◽  
Michel Baraer

In Nordic watersheds, estimation of the dynamics of snow water equivalent (SWE) represents a major step toward a satisfactory modeling of the annual hydrograph. For a multilayer, physically-based snow model like MASiN (Modèle Autonome de Simulation de la Neige), the number of modeled snow layers can affect the accuracy of the simulated SWE. The objective of this study was to identify the maximum number of snow layers (MNSL) that would define the trade-off between snowpack stratification and SWE modeling accuracy. Results indicated that decreasing the MNSL reduced the SWE modeling accuracy since the thermal energy balance and the mass balance were less accurately resolved by the model. Nevertheless, from a performance standpoint, SWE modeling can be accurate enough with a MNSL of two (2), with a substantial performance drop for a MNSL value of around nine (9). Additionally, the linear correlation between the values of the calibrated parameters and the MNSL indicated that reducing the latter in MASiN increased the fresh snow density and the settlement coefficient, while the maximum radiation coefficient decreased. In this case, MASiN favored the melting process, and thus the homogenization of snow layers occurred from the top layers of the snowpack in the modeling algorithm.

2013 ◽  
Vol 17 (12) ◽  
pp. 5127-5139 ◽  
G. A. Artan ◽  
J. P. Verdin ◽  
R. Lietzow

Abstract. We illustrate the ability to monitor the status of snow water content over large areas by using a spatially distributed snow accumulation and ablation model that uses data from a weather forecast model in the upper Colorado Basin. The model was forced with precipitation fields from the National Weather Service (NWS) Multi-sensor Precipitation Estimator (MPE) and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) data-sets; remaining meteorological model input data were from NOAA's Global Forecast System (GFS) model output fields. The simulated snow water equivalent (SWE) was compared to SWEs from the Snow Data Assimilation System (SNODAS) and SNOwpack TELemetry system (SNOTEL) over a region of the western US that covers parts of the upper Colorado Basin. We also compared the SWE product estimated from the special sensor microwave imager (SSM/I) and scanning multichannel microwave radiometer (SMMR) to the SNODAS and SNOTEL SWE data-sets. Agreement between the spatial distributions of the simulated SWE with MPE data was high with both SNODAS and SNOTEL. Model-simulated SWE with TRMM precipitation and SWE estimated from the passive microwave imagery were not significantly correlated spatially with either SNODAS or the SNOTEL SWE. Average basin-wide SWE simulated with the MPE and the TRMM data were highly correlated with both SNODAS (r = 0.94 and r = 0.64; d.f. = 14 – d.f. = degrees of freedom) and SNOTEL (r = 0.93 and r = 0.68; d.f. = 14). The SWE estimated from the passive microwave imagery was significantly correlated with the SNODAS SWE (r = 0.55, d.f. = 9, p = 0.05) but was not significantly correlated with the SNOTEL-reported SWE values (r = 0.45, d.f. = 9, p = 0.05).The results indicate the applicability of the snow energy balance model for monitoring snow water content at regional scales when coupled with meteorological data of acceptable quality. The two snow water contents from the microwave imagery (SMMR and SSM/I) and the Utah Energy Balance forced with the TRMM precipitation data were found to be unreliable sources for mapping SWE in the study area; both data sets lacked discernible variability of snow water content between sites as seen in the SNOTEL and SNODAS SWE data. This study will contribute to better understanding the adequacy of data from weather forecast models, TRMM, and microwave imagery for monitoring status of the snow water content.

2018 ◽  
Vol 12 (3) ◽  
pp. 891-905 ◽  
Andrew M. Snauffer ◽  
William W. Hsieh ◽  
Alex J. Cannon ◽  
Markus A. Schnorbus

Abstract. Estimates of surface snow water equivalent (SWE) in mixed alpine environments with seasonal melts are particularly difficult in areas of high vegetation density, topographic relief, and snow accumulations. These three confounding factors dominate much of the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada. An artificial neural network (ANN) was created using as predictors six gridded SWE products previously evaluated for BC. Relevant spatiotemporal covariates were also included as predictors, and observations from manual snow surveys at stations located throughout BC were used as target data. Mean absolute errors (MAEs) and interannual correlations for April surveys were found using cross-validation. The ANN using the three best-performing SWE products (ANN3) had the lowest mean station MAE across the province. ANN3 outperformed each product as well as product means and multiple linear regression (MLR) models in all of BC's five physiographic regions except for the BC Plains. Subsequent comparisons with predictions generated by the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrologic model found ANN3 to better estimate SWE over the VIC domain and within most regions. The superior performance of ANN3 over the individual products, product means, MLR, and VIC was found to be statistically significant across the province.

2019 ◽  
Abbas Fayad ◽  
Simon Gascoin

Abstract. In many Mediterranean mountain regions, the seasonal snowpack is an essential yet poorly known water resource. Here, we examine, for the first time, the spatial distribution and evolution of the snow water equivalent (SWE) during three snow seasons (2013–2016) in the coastal mountains of Lebanon. We run SnowModel (Liston and Elder, 2006a), a spatially-distributed, process-based snow model, at 100 m resolution forced by new automatic weather station (AWS) data in three snow-dominated basins of Mount Lebanon. We evaluate a recent upgrade of the liquid water percolation scheme in SnowModel, which was introduced to improve the simulation of the snow water equivalent (SWE) and runoff in warm maritime regions. The model is evaluated against continuous snow depth and snow albedo observations at the AWS, manual SWE measurements, and MODIS snow cover area between 1200 m and 3000 m a.s.l.. The results show that the new percolation scheme yields better performance especially in terms of SWE but also in snow depth and snow cover area. Over the simulation period between 2013 and 2016, the maximum snow mass was reached between December and March. Peak mean SWE (above 1200 m a.s.l.) changed significantly from year to year in the three study catchments with values ranging between 73 mm and 286 mm we (RMSE between 160 and 260 mm w.e.). We suggest that the major sources of uncertainty in simulating the SWE, in this warm Mediterranean climate, can be attributed to forcing error but also to our limited understanding of the separation between rain and snow at lower-elevations, the transient snow melt events during the accumulation season, and the high-variability of snow depth patterns at the sub-pixel scale due to the wind-driven blown-snow redistribution into karstic features and sinkholes. Yet, the use of a process-based snow model with minimal requirements for parameter estimation provides a basis to simulate snow mass SWE in non-monitored catchments and characterize the contribution of snowmelt to the karstic groundwater recharge in Lebanon. While this research focused on three basins in the Mount Lebanon, it serves as a case study to highlight the importance of wet snow processes to estimate SWE in Mediterranean mountain regions.

2021 ◽  
Ondrej Hotovy ◽  
Michal Jenicek

<p>Seasonal snowpack significantly influences the catchment runoff and thus represents an important input for the hydrological cycle. Changes in the precipitation distribution and intensity, as well as a shift from snowfall to rain is expected in the future due to climate changes. As a result, rain-on-snow events, which are considered to be one of the main causes of floods in winter and spring, may occur more frequently. Heat from liquid precipitation constitutes one of the snowpack energy balance components. Consequently, snowmelt and runoff may be strongly affected by these temperature and precipitation changes.</p><p>The objective of this study is 1) to evaluate the frequency, inter-annual variability and extremity of rain-on-snow events in the past based on existing measurements together with an analysis of changes in the snowpack energy balance, and 2) to simulate the effect of predicted increase in air temperature on the occurrence of rain-on-snow events in the future. We selected 40 near-natural mountain catchments in Czechia with significant snow influence on runoff and with available long-time series (>35 years) of daily hydrological and meteorological variables. A semi-distributed conceptual model, HBV-light, was used to simulate the individual components of the water cycle at a catchment scale. The model was calibrated for each of study catchments by using 100 calibration trials which resulted in respective number of optimized parameter sets. The model performance was evaluated against observed runoff and snow water equivalent. Rain-on-snow events definition by threshold values for air temperature, snow depth, rain intensity and snow water equivalent decrease allowed us to analyze inter-annual variations and trends in rain-on-snow events during the study period 1965-2019 and to explain the role of different catchment attributes.</p><p>The preliminary results show that a significant change of rain-on-snow events related to increasing air temperature is not clearly evident. Since both air temperature and elevation seem to be an important rain-on-snow drivers, there is an increasing rain-on-snow events occurrence during winter season due to a decrease in snowfall fraction. In contrast, a decrease in total number of events was observed due to the shortening of the period with existing snow cover on the ground. Modelling approach also opened further questions related to model structure and parameterization, specifically how individual model procedures and parameters represent the real natural processes. To understand potential model artefacts might be important when using HBV or similar bucket-type models for impact studies, such as modelling the impact of climate change on catchment runoff.</p>

2021 ◽  
Abby C. Lute ◽  
John Abatzoglou ◽  
Timothy Link

Abstract. Seasonal snowpack dynamics shape the biophysical and societal characteristics of many global regions. However, snowpack accumulation and duration have generally declined in recent decades largely due to anthropogenic climate change. Mechanistic understanding of snowpack spatiotemporal heterogeneity and climate change impacts will benefit from snow data products that are based on physical principles, that are simulated at high spatial resolution, and that cover large geographic domains. Existing datasets do not meet these requirements, hindering our ability to understand both contemporary and changing snow regimes and to develop adaptation strategies in regions where snowpack patterns and processes are important components of Earth systems. We developed a computationally efficient physics-based snow model, SnowClim, that can be run in the cloud. The model was evaluated and calibrated at Snowpack Telemetry sites across the western United States (US), achieving a site-median root mean square error for daily snow water equivalent of 62 mm, bias in peak snow water equivalent of −9.6 mm, and bias in snow duration of 1.2 days when run hourly. Positive biases were found at sites with mean winter temperature above freezing where the estimation of precipitation phase is prone to errors. The model was applied to the western US using newly developed forcing data created by statistically downscaling pre-industrial, historical, and pseudo-global warming climate data from the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. The resulting product is the SnowClim dataset, a suite of summary climate and snow metrics for the western US at 210 m spatial resolution (Lute et al., 2021). The physical basis, large extent, and high spatial resolution of this dataset will enable novel analyses of changing hydroclimate and its implications for natural and human systems.

2014 ◽  
Vol 7 (3) ◽  
pp. 725-736 ◽  
G. Formetta ◽  
S. K. Kampf ◽  
O. David ◽  
R. Rigon

Abstract. This paper presents a package of modified temperature-index-based snow water equivalent models as part of the hydrological modeling system NewAge-JGrass. Three temperature-based snow models are integrated into the NewAge-JGrass modeling system and use many of its components such as those for radiation balance (short wave radiation balance, SWRB), kriging (KRIGING), automatic calibration algorithms (particle swarm optimization) and tests of goodness of fit (NewAge-V), to build suitable modeling solutions (MS). Similarly to all the NewAge-JGrass components, the models can be executed both in raster and in vector mode. The simulation time step can be daily, hourly or sub-hourly, depending on user needs and availability of input data. The MS are applied on the Cache la Poudre River basin (CO, USA) using three test applications. First, daily snow water equivalent is simulated for three different measurement stations for two snow model formulations. Second, hourly snow water equivalent is simulated using all the three different snow model formulae. Finally, a raster mode application is performed to compute snow water equivalent maps for the whole Cache la Poudre Basin.

1996 ◽  
Vol 27 (5) ◽  
pp. 295-312
Steven S. Carroll

With the increased demand for water in the United States, particularly in the West, it is essential that water resources be accurately monitored. Consequently, the National Weather Service (NWS) maintains a set of conceptual, continuous, hydrologic simulation models used to generate extended streamflow predictions, water supply outlooks, and flood forecasts. A vital component of the hydrologic simulation models is a snow accumulation and ablation model that uses observed temperature and precipitation date to simulate snow cover conditions. The simulated model states are updated throughout the snow season using snow water equivalent estimates (estimates of the water content of snowpack) obtained from airborne and ground-based snow water equivalent data. The National Weather Service has developed a spatial geostatistical model to estimate the areal snow water equivalent in a river basin. The estimates, which are obtained for river basins throughout the West, are used to update the snow model. To facilitate accurate updating of the simulated snow water equivalent estimates generated by the snow model, it is necessary to incorporate measures of uncertainty of the areal snow water equivalent estimates. In this research, we derive the expression for the mean-squared prediction error of the areal snow water equivalent estimate and illustrate the methodology with an example from the Upper Colorado River basin.

Sign in / Sign up

Export Citation Format

Share Document