Analysis of the Impact of Snow on Daily Weather Variability in Mountainous Regions Using MM5

Jiming Jin Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California

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Norman L. Miller Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California

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Abstract

The impacts of snow on daily weather variability, as well as the mechanisms of snowmelt over the Sierra Nevada, California–Nevada, mountainous region, were studied using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) forced by 6-h reanalysis data from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The analysis of two-way nested 36–12-km MM5 simulations during the 1998 snowmelt season (April–June) shows that the snow water equivalent (SWE) is underestimated when there are conditions with higher temperature and greater precipitation than observations. An observed daily SWE dataset derived from the snow telemetry network was assimilated into the Noah land surface model within MM5. This SWE assimilation reduces the warm bias. The reduction of the warm bias results from suppressed upward sensible heat flux caused by the decreased skin temperature. This skin temperature reduction is the result of the longer assimilated snow duration than in the model run without SWE assimilation. Meanwhile, the cooled surface leads to a more stable atmosphere, resulting in a decrease in the exaggerated precipitation. Additionally, the detailed analysis of the snowmelt indicates that the absence of vegetation fraction in the most sophisticated land surface model (Noah) in the MM5 package results in an overestimation of solar radiation reaching the snow surface, giving rise to heavier snowmelt. An underestimated surface albedo also weakly contributes to the stronger snowmelt. The roles of the vegetation fraction and albedo in snowmelt are further verified by an additional offline simulation from a more realistic land surface model with advanced snow and vegetation schemes forced by the MM5 output. An improvement in SWE description is clearly seen in this offline simulation over the Sierra Nevada region.

Corresponding author address: Jiming Jin, 90-1116 One Cyclotron Road, Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720. Email: JimingJin@lbl.gov

Abstract

The impacts of snow on daily weather variability, as well as the mechanisms of snowmelt over the Sierra Nevada, California–Nevada, mountainous region, were studied using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) forced by 6-h reanalysis data from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The analysis of two-way nested 36–12-km MM5 simulations during the 1998 snowmelt season (April–June) shows that the snow water equivalent (SWE) is underestimated when there are conditions with higher temperature and greater precipitation than observations. An observed daily SWE dataset derived from the snow telemetry network was assimilated into the Noah land surface model within MM5. This SWE assimilation reduces the warm bias. The reduction of the warm bias results from suppressed upward sensible heat flux caused by the decreased skin temperature. This skin temperature reduction is the result of the longer assimilated snow duration than in the model run without SWE assimilation. Meanwhile, the cooled surface leads to a more stable atmosphere, resulting in a decrease in the exaggerated precipitation. Additionally, the detailed analysis of the snowmelt indicates that the absence of vegetation fraction in the most sophisticated land surface model (Noah) in the MM5 package results in an overestimation of solar radiation reaching the snow surface, giving rise to heavier snowmelt. An underestimated surface albedo also weakly contributes to the stronger snowmelt. The roles of the vegetation fraction and albedo in snowmelt are further verified by an additional offline simulation from a more realistic land surface model with advanced snow and vegetation schemes forced by the MM5 output. An improvement in SWE description is clearly seen in this offline simulation over the Sierra Nevada region.

Corresponding author address: Jiming Jin, 90-1116 One Cyclotron Road, Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720. Email: JimingJin@lbl.gov

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