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Xiaoqin Jing
,
Bart Geerts
,
Yonggang Wang
, and
Changhai Liu

Abstract

There are several high-resolution (1–12 km) gridded precipitation datasets covering the interior western United States. This study cross validates seasonal orographic precipitation estimates from the Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) network; the national hourly multisensor precipitation analysis Stage IV dataset (NCEP IV); four gauge-driven gridded datasets; and a 10-yr, 4-km, convection-permitting Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulation. The NCEP IV dataset, which uses the NEXRAD network and precipitation gauges, is challenged in this region because of blockage and lack of low-level radar coverage in complex terrain. The gauge-driven gridded datasets, which statistically interpolate gauge measurements over complex terrain to better estimate orographic precipitation, are challenged by the highly heterogeneous, weather-dependent nature of precipitation in complex terrain at scales finer than can be resolved by the gauge network, such as the SNOTEL network. Gauge-driven gridded precipitation estimates disagree in areas where SNOTEL gauges are sparse, especially at higher elevations. The WRF simulation captures wintertime orographic precipitation distribution and amount well, and biases over specific mountain ranges are identical to those in an independent WRF simulation, suggesting that these biases are at least partly due to errors in the snowfall measurements or the gridding of these measurements. The substantial disagreement between WRF and the gridded datasets over some mountains may motivate reevaluation of some gauge records and installation of new SNOTEL gauges in regions marked by large discrepancies between modeled and gauge-driven precipitation estimates.

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Roy Rasmussen
,
Kyoko Ikeda
,
Changhai Liu
,
David Gochis
,
Martyn Clark
,
Aiguo Dai
,
Ethan Gutmann
,
Jimy Dudhia
,
Fei Chen
,
Mike Barlage
,
David Yates
, and
Guo Zhang

Abstract

A high-resolution climate model (4-km horizontal grid spacing) is used to examine the following question: How will long-term changes in climate impact the partitioning of annual precipitation between evapotranspiration and runoff in the Colorado Headwaters?

This question is examined using a climate sensitivity approach in which eight years of current climate is compared to a future climate created by modifying the current climate signal with perturbation from the NCAR Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3), model forced by the A1B scenario for greenhouse gases out to 2050. The current climate period is shown to agree well with Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) surface observations of precipitation (P) and snowpack, as well as streamflow and AmeriFlux evapotranspiration (ET) observations. The results show that the annual evaporative fraction (ET/P) for the Colorado Headwaters is 0.81 for the current climate and 0.83 for the future climate, indicating increasing aridity in the future despite a positive increase of precipitation. Runoff decreased by an average of 6%, reflecting the increased aridity.

Precipitation increased in the future winter by 12%, but decreased in the summer as a result of increased low-level inhibition to convection. The fraction of precipitation that fell as snow decreased from 0.83 in the current climate to 0.74 in the future. Future snowpack did not change significantly until January. From January to March the snowpack increased above ~3000 m MSL and decreased below that level. Snowpack decreased at all elevations in the future from April to July. The peak snowpack and runoff over the headwaters occurred 2–3 weeks earlier in the future simulation, in agreement with previous studies.

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