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The Radiative Effect of a Fir Canopy on a Snowpack

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  • 1 Environmental Systems Science Centre, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
  • 2 British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, Cambridge, United Kingdom
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Abstract

Models of snow processes in areas of possible large-scale change need to be site independent and physically based. Here, the accumulation and ablation of the seasonal snow cover beneath a fir canopy has been simulated with a new physically based snow–soil vegetation–atmosphere transfer scheme (Snow-SVAT) called SNOWCAN. The model was formulated by coupling a canopy optical and thermal radiation model to a physically based multilayer snow model. Simple representations of other forest effects were included. These include the reduction of wind speed and hence turbulent transfer beneath the canopy, sublimation of intercepted snow, and deposition of debris on the surface.

This paper tests this new modeling approach fully at a fir site within Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, Idaho. Model parameters were determined at an open site and subsequently applied to the fir site. SNOWCAN was evaluated using measurements of snow depth, subcanopy solar and thermal radiation, and snowpack profiles of temperature, density, and grain size. Simulations showed good agreement with observations (e.g., fir site snow depth was estimated over the season with r2 = 0.96), generally to within measurement error. However, the simulated temperature profiles were less accurate after a melt–freeze event, when the temperature discrepancy resulted from underestimation of the rate of liquid water flow and/or the rate of refreeze. This indicates both that the general modeling approach is applicable and that a still more complete representation of liquid water in the snowpack will be important.

* Current affiliation: Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Corresponding author address: M. J. Tribbeck, Environmental Systems Science Centre, University of Reading, 3 Earley Gate, Reading RG6 6AL, United Kingdom. Email: mjt@mail.nerc-essc.ac.uk

Abstract

Models of snow processes in areas of possible large-scale change need to be site independent and physically based. Here, the accumulation and ablation of the seasonal snow cover beneath a fir canopy has been simulated with a new physically based snow–soil vegetation–atmosphere transfer scheme (Snow-SVAT) called SNOWCAN. The model was formulated by coupling a canopy optical and thermal radiation model to a physically based multilayer snow model. Simple representations of other forest effects were included. These include the reduction of wind speed and hence turbulent transfer beneath the canopy, sublimation of intercepted snow, and deposition of debris on the surface.

This paper tests this new modeling approach fully at a fir site within Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, Idaho. Model parameters were determined at an open site and subsequently applied to the fir site. SNOWCAN was evaluated using measurements of snow depth, subcanopy solar and thermal radiation, and snowpack profiles of temperature, density, and grain size. Simulations showed good agreement with observations (e.g., fir site snow depth was estimated over the season with r2 = 0.96), generally to within measurement error. However, the simulated temperature profiles were less accurate after a melt–freeze event, when the temperature discrepancy resulted from underestimation of the rate of liquid water flow and/or the rate of refreeze. This indicates both that the general modeling approach is applicable and that a still more complete representation of liquid water in the snowpack will be important.

* Current affiliation: Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Corresponding author address: M. J. Tribbeck, Environmental Systems Science Centre, University of Reading, 3 Earley Gate, Reading RG6 6AL, United Kingdom. Email: mjt@mail.nerc-essc.ac.uk

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