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Glen E. Liston and Kelly Elder

Abstract

An intermediate-complexity, quasi–physically based, meteorological model (MicroMet) has been developed to produce high-resolution (e.g., 30-m to 1-km horizontal grid increment) atmospheric forcings required to run spatially distributed terrestrial models over a wide variety of landscapes. The following eight variables, required to run most terrestrial models, are distributed: air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, incoming solar radiation, incoming longwave radiation, surface pressure, and precipitation. To produce these distributions, MicroMet assumes that at least one value of each of the following meteorological variables are available for each time step, somewhere within, or near, the simulation domain: air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and precipitation. These variables are collected at most meteorological stations. For the incoming solar and longwave radiation, and surface pressure, either MicroMet can use its submodels to generate these fields, or it can create the distributions from observations as part of a data assimilation procedure. MicroMet includes a preprocessor component that analyzes meteorological data, then identifies and corrects potential deficiencies. Since providing temporally and spatially continuous atmospheric forcing data for terrestrial models is a core objective of MicroMet, the preprocessor also fills in any missing data segments with realistic values. Data filling is achieved by employing a variety of procedures, including an autoregressive integrated moving average calculation for diurnally varying variables (e.g., air temperature). To create the distributed atmospheric fields, spatial interpolations are performed using the Barnes objective analysis scheme, and subsequent corrections are made to the interpolated fields using known temperature–elevation, wind–topography, humidity–cloudiness, and radiation–cloud–topography relationships.

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Glen E. Liston and Kelly Elder

Abstract

SnowModel is a spatially distributed snow-evolution modeling system designed for application in landscapes, climates, and conditions where snow occurs. It is an aggregation of four submodels: MicroMet defines meteorological forcing conditions, EnBal calculates surface energy exchanges, SnowPack simulates snow depth and water-equivalent evolution, and SnowTran-3D accounts for snow redistribution by wind. Since each of these submodels was originally developed and tested for nonforested conditions, details describing modifications made to the submodels for forested areas are provided. SnowModel was created to run on grid increments of 1 to 200 m and temporal increments of 10 min to 1 day. It can also be applied using much larger grid increments, if the inherent loss in high-resolution (subgrid) information is acceptable. Simulated processes include snow accumulation; blowing-snow redistribution and sublimation; forest canopy interception, unloading, and sublimation; snow-density evolution; and snowpack melt. Conceptually, SnowModel includes the first-order physics required to simulate snow evolution within each of the global snow classes (i.e., ice, tundra, taiga, alpine/mountain, prairie, maritime, and ephemeral). The required model inputs are 1) temporally varying fields of precipitation, wind speed and direction, air temperature, and relative humidity obtained from meteorological stations and/or an atmospheric model located within or near the simulation domain; and 2) spatially distributed fields of topography and vegetation type. SnowModel’s ability to simulate seasonal snow evolution was compared against observations in both forested and nonforested landscapes. The model closely reproduced observed snow-water-equivalent distribution, time evolution, and interannual variability patterns.

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Adam Winstral, Kelly Elder, and Robert E. Davis

Abstract

Wind is widely recognized as one of the dominant controls of snow accumulation and distribution in exposed alpine regions. Complex and highly variable wind fields in rugged terrain lead to similarly complex snow distribution fields with areas of no snow adjacent to areas of deep accumulation. Unfortunately, these complexities have limited inclusion of wind redistribution effects in spatial snow distribution models. In this study the difficulties associated with physically exhaustive wind field modeling are avoided and terrain-based parameters are developed to characterize wind effects. One parameter, , was based on maximum upwind slopes relative to seasonally averaged winds to characterize the wind scalar at each pixel location in an alpine basin. A second parameter, , measured upwind breaks in slope from a given location and was combined with an upwind application of to create a drift delineator parameter, D0, which was used to delineate sites of intense redeposition on lee slopes. Based on 504 snow depth samples from a May 1999 survey of the upper Green Lakes Valley, Colorado, the correlation of the developed parameters to the observed snow distribution and the effect of their inclusion in a spatial snow distribution model were quantified. The parameter was found to be a significant predictor, accounting for more of the variance in the observed snow depth than could be explained by elevation, solar radiation, or slope. Samples located in D0-delineated drift zones were shown to have significantly greater depths than samples located in nondrift zones. A regression tree model of snow distribution based on a predictor variable set of , D0, elevation, solar radiation, and slope explained 8%–23% more variance in the observed snow distribution, and performed noticeably better in unsampled areas of the basin, compared to a regression tree model based on only the latter three predictors.

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James Montesi, Kelly Elder, R. A. Schmidt, and Robert E. Davis

Abstract

To determine how elevation affects the sublimation rate from intercepted snow within a subalpine forest canopy, a cut subalpine fir and an artificial conifer were weighed at each of two elevations (3230 and 2920 m) at a U.S. continental site (39°53′N, 105°54′W) from 1 January to 1 May 2001. Measured stand characteristics included canopy density (67% and 75%) and basal area (43.4 and 24.1 m2 ha−1) for the higher and lower elevations, respectively. Temperature, relative humidity, net radiation, wind speed, and mass of snow on suspended trees provided data to determine whether sublimation rates of intercepted snow are more rapid at higher elevations associated with increased wind speed. Measurements showed the unexpected result that wind speed during sublimation periods was lower at higher elevations, probably because of terrain sheltering. The analysis examined 21 storm-free periods ranging in duration from 9 to 53 h. Sublimation rates per unit mass of intercepted snow were significantly larger at the lower-elevation site associated with warmer temperatures, lower relative humidity, and greater wind speeds. Application of meteorological data to an ice sphere model indicated that predicted mean sublimation rates of an ice sphere index were 23% ± 7% more rapid at the lower elevation due to weather factors alone. However, greater snowfall at higher elevations produced greater interception, resulting in substantially more snow being sublimated back to the atmosphere at the upper site. Over the study period, sublimation of snow intercepted by the test trees amounted to 20%–30% of total snowfall accumulated at the sites during the 21 storms selected for analysis.

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Jeffrey S. Deems, Steven R. Fassnacht, and Kelly J. Elder

Abstract

Fractal dimensions derived from log–log variograms are useful for characterizing spatial structure and scaling behavior in snow depth distributions. This study examines the temporal consistency of snow depth scaling features at two sites using snow depth distributions derived from lidar datasets collected in 2003 and 2005. The temporal snow accumulation patterns in these two years were substantially different, but both years represent nearly average 1 April accumulation depths for these sites, with consistent statistical distributions. Two distinct fractal regions are observed in each log–log variogram, separated by a scale break, which indicates a length scale at which a substantial change in the driving processes exists. The lag distance of the scale break is 15 m at the Walton Creek site and 40 m at the Alpine site. The datasets show consistent fractal dimensions and scale break distances between the two years, suggesting that the scaling features observed in spatial snow depth distributions are largely determined by physiography and vegetation characteristics and are relatively insensitive to annual variations in snowfall. Directional variograms also show consistent patterns between years, with smaller fractal dimensions aligned with the dominant wind direction at each site.

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Kelly Elder, Don Cline, Glen E. Liston, and Richard Armstrong

Abstract

A field measurement program was undertaken as part NASA’s Cold Land Processes Experiment (CLPX). Extensive snowpack and soil measurements were taken at field sites in Colorado over four study periods during the two study years (2002 and 2003). Measurements included snow depth, density, temperature, grain type and size, surface wetness, surface roughness, and canopy cover. Soil moisture measurements were made in the near-surface layer in snow pits. Measurements were taken in the Fraser valley, North Park, and Rabbit Ears Pass areas of Colorado. Sites were chosen to gain a wide representation of snowpack types and physiographies typical of seasonally snow-covered regions of the world. The data have been collected with rigorous protocol to ensure consistency and quality, and they have undergone several levels of quality assurance to produce a high-quality spatial dataset for continued cold lands hydrological research. The dataset is archived at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

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Jeffrey S. Deems, Steven R. Fassnacht, and Kelly J. Elder

Abstract

Snowpack properties vary dramatically over a wide range of spatial scales, from crystal microstructure to regional snow climates. The driving forces of wind, energy balance, and precipitation interact with topography and vegetation to dominate snow depth variability at horizontal scales from 1 to 1000 m. This study uses land surface elevation, vegetation surface elevation, and snow depth data measured using airborne lidar at three sites in north-central Colorado. Fractal dimensions are estimated from the slope of a log-transformed variogram and demonstrate scale-invariant, fractal behavior in the elevation, vegetation, and snow depth datasets. Snow depth and vegetation topography each show two distinct fractal distributions over different scale ranges (multifractal behavior), with short-range fractal dimensions near 2.5 and long-range fractal dimensions around 2.9 at all locations. These fractal ranges are separated by a scale break at 15–40 m, depending on the site, which indicates a process change at that scale. Terrain has a fractal distribution over nearly the entire range of scales available in the data. Directional differences in the fractal dimensions for each parameter are also present at multiple scales, and are related to the wind direction frequency distributions at each site. The results indicate that different sampling resolutions may yield different results and allow rescaling in specific scale ranges. Resolutions of 10 m and finer are consistently self-similar, as are resolutions greater than 30 m, though the coarser resolutions show nearly random distributions.

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Kelly Elder, Angus Goodbody, Don Cline, Paul Houser, Glen E. Liston, Larry Mahrt, and Nick Rutter

Abstract

A short-term meteorological database has been developed for the Cold Land Processes Experiment (CLPX). This database includes meteorological observations from stations designed and deployed exclusively for CLPX as well as observations available from other sources located in the small regional study area (SRSA) in north-central Colorado. The measured weather parameters include air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, short- and longwave radiation, leaf wetness, snow depth, snow water content, snow and surface temperatures, volumetric soil moisture content, soil temperature, precipitation, water vapor flux, carbon dioxide flux, and soil heat flux. The CLPX weather stations include 10 main meteorological towers, 1 tower within each of the nine intensive study areas (ISA) and one near the local scale observation site (LSOS); and 36 simplified towers, with one tower at each of the four corners of each of the nine ISAs, which measured a reduced set of parameters. An eddy covariance system within the North Park mesocell study area (MSA) collected a variety of additional parameters beyond the 10 standard CLPX tower components. Additional meteorological observations come from a variety of existing networks maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. Temporal coverage varies from station to station, but it is most concentrated during the 2002/03 winter season. These data are useful in local meteorological energy balance research and for model development and testing. These data can be accessed through the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site.

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Glen E. Liston, Christopher A. Hiemstra, Kelly Elder, and Donald W. Cline

Abstract

The Cold Land Processes Experiment (CLPX) had a goal of describing snow-related features over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. This required linking disparate snow tools and datasets into one coherent, integrated package. Simulating realistic high-resolution snow distributions and features requires a snow-evolution modeling system (SnowModel) that can distribute meteorological forcings, simulate snowpack accumulation and ablation processes, and assimilate snow-related observations. A SnowModel was developed and used to simulate winter snow accumulation across three 30 km × 30 km domains, enveloping the CLPX mesocell study areas (MSAs) in Colorado. The three MSAs have distinct topography, vegetation, meteorological, and snow characteristics. Simulations were performed using a 30-m grid increment and spanned the snow accumulation season (1 October 2002–1 April 2003). Meteorological forcing was provided by 27 meteorological stations and 75 atmospheric analyses grid points, distributed using a meteorological model (MicroMet). The simulations included a data assimilation model (SnowAssim) that adjusted simulated snow water equivalent (SWE) toward ground-based and airborne SWE observations. The observations consisted of SWE over three 1 km × 1 km intensive study areas (ISAs) for each MSA and a collection of 117 airborne gamma observations, each integrating area 10 km long by 300 m wide. Simulated SWE distributions displayed considerably more spatial heterogeneity than the observations alone, and the simulated distribution patterns closely fit the current understanding of snow evolution processes and observed snow depths. This is the result of the MicroMet/SnowModel’s relatively finescale representations of orographic precipitation, elevation-dependant snowmelt, wind redistribution, and snow–vegetation interactions.

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Glen E. Liston, Daniel L. Birkenheuer, Christopher A. Hiemstra, Donald W. Cline, and Kelly Elder

Abstract

This paper describes the Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) and the 20-km horizontal grid version of the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC20) atmospheric analyses datasets, which are available as part of the Cold Land Processes Field Experiment (CLPX) data archive. The LAPS dataset contains spatially and temporally continuous atmospheric and surface variables over Colorado, Wyoming, and parts of the surrounding states. The analysis used a 10-km horizontal grid with 21 vertical levels and an hourly temporal resolution. The LAPS archive includes forty-six 1D surface fields and nine 3D upper-air fields, spanning the period 1 September 2001 through 31 August 2003. The RUC20 dataset includes hourly 3D atmospheric analyses over the contiguous United States and parts of southern Canada and northern Mexico, with 50 vertical levels. The RUC20 archive contains forty-six 1D surface fields and fourteen 3D upper-air fields, spanning the period 1 October 2002 through 31 September 2003. The datasets are archived at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

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