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Snow Hydrology in a General Circulation Model

Susan MarshallDepartment of Earth Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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John O. RoadsScripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. La Jolla, California

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Gary GlatzmaierInstitute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico

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Abstract

A snow hydrology has been implemented in an atmospheric general circulation model (GCM). The snow hydrology consists of parameterizations of snowfall and snow cover fraction, a prognostic calculation of snow temperature, and a model of the snow mass and hydrologic budgets. Previously, only snow albedo had been included by a specified snow line. A 3-year GCM simulation with this now more complete surface hydrology is compared to a previous GCM control run with the specified snow line, as well as with observations. In particular, the authors discuss comparisons of the atmospheric and surface hydrologic budgets and the surface energy budget for U.S. and Canadian areas.

The new snow hydrology changes the annual cycle of the surface moisture and energy budgets in the model. There is a noticeable shift in the runoff maximum from winter in the control run to spring in the snow hydrology run. A substantial amount of GCM winter precipitation is now stored in the seasonal snow pack. Snow cover also acts as an important insulating layer between the atmosphere and the ground. Wintertime soil temperatures are much higher in the snow hydrology experiment than in the control experiment. Seasonal snow cover is important for dampening large fluctuations in GCM continental skin temperature during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

Snow depths and snow extent show good agreement with observations over North America. The geographic distribution of maximum depths is not as well simulated by the model due, in part, to the coarse resolution of the model. The patterns of runoff are qualitatively and quantitatively similar to observed patterns of streamflow averaged over the continental United States. The seasonal cycles of precipitation and evaporation are also reasonably well simulated by the model, although their magnitudes are larger than is observed. This is due, in part, to a cold bias in this model, which results in a dry model atmosphere and enhances the hydrologic cycle everywhere.

Abstract

A snow hydrology has been implemented in an atmospheric general circulation model (GCM). The snow hydrology consists of parameterizations of snowfall and snow cover fraction, a prognostic calculation of snow temperature, and a model of the snow mass and hydrologic budgets. Previously, only snow albedo had been included by a specified snow line. A 3-year GCM simulation with this now more complete surface hydrology is compared to a previous GCM control run with the specified snow line, as well as with observations. In particular, the authors discuss comparisons of the atmospheric and surface hydrologic budgets and the surface energy budget for U.S. and Canadian areas.

The new snow hydrology changes the annual cycle of the surface moisture and energy budgets in the model. There is a noticeable shift in the runoff maximum from winter in the control run to spring in the snow hydrology run. A substantial amount of GCM winter precipitation is now stored in the seasonal snow pack. Snow cover also acts as an important insulating layer between the atmosphere and the ground. Wintertime soil temperatures are much higher in the snow hydrology experiment than in the control experiment. Seasonal snow cover is important for dampening large fluctuations in GCM continental skin temperature during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

Snow depths and snow extent show good agreement with observations over North America. The geographic distribution of maximum depths is not as well simulated by the model due, in part, to the coarse resolution of the model. The patterns of runoff are qualitatively and quantitatively similar to observed patterns of streamflow averaged over the continental United States. The seasonal cycles of precipitation and evaporation are also reasonably well simulated by the model, although their magnitudes are larger than is observed. This is due, in part, to a cold bias in this model, which results in a dry model atmosphere and enhances the hydrologic cycle everywhere.

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