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SNOWMIP2: An Evaluation of Forest Snow Process Simulations

Richard Essery
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Nick Rutter
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John Pomeroy
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Robert Baxter
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Manfred Stähli
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David Gustafsson
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Alan Barr
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Paul Bartlett
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Kelly Elder
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The Northern Hemisphere has large areas that are forested and seasonally snow covered. Compared with open areas, forest canopies strongly influence interactions between the atmosphere and snow on the ground by sheltering the snow from wind and solar radiation and by intercepting falling snow; these influences have important consequences for the meteorology, hydrology, and ecology of forests. Many of the land surface models used in meteorological and hydrological forecasting now include representations of canopy snow processes, but these have not been widely tested in comparison with observations. Phase 2 of the Snow Model Intercomparison Project (SnowMIP2) was therefore designed as an intercomparison of surface mass and energy balance simulations for snow in forested areas. Model forcing and calibration data for sites with paired forested and open plots were supplied to modeling groups. Participants in 11 countries contributed output from 33 models, and the results are published here for sites in Canada, the United States, and Switzerland. On average, the models perform fairly well in simulating snow accumulation and ablation, although there is a wide intermodal spread and a tendency to underestimate differences in snow mass between open and forested areas. Most models capture the large differences in surface albedos and temperatures between forest canopies and open snow well. There is, however, a strong tendency for models to underestimate soil temperature under snow, particularly for forest sites, and this would have large consequences for simulations of runoff and biological processes in the soil.

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom

WSL Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Department of Land and Water Resources Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Climate Research Division, Environment Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Climate Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Fort Collins, Colorado

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: R. Essery, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3JW, United Kingdom, E-mail: richard.essery@ed.ac.uk

The Northern Hemisphere has large areas that are forested and seasonally snow covered. Compared with open areas, forest canopies strongly influence interactions between the atmosphere and snow on the ground by sheltering the snow from wind and solar radiation and by intercepting falling snow; these influences have important consequences for the meteorology, hydrology, and ecology of forests. Many of the land surface models used in meteorological and hydrological forecasting now include representations of canopy snow processes, but these have not been widely tested in comparison with observations. Phase 2 of the Snow Model Intercomparison Project (SnowMIP2) was therefore designed as an intercomparison of surface mass and energy balance simulations for snow in forested areas. Model forcing and calibration data for sites with paired forested and open plots were supplied to modeling groups. Participants in 11 countries contributed output from 33 models, and the results are published here for sites in Canada, the United States, and Switzerland. On average, the models perform fairly well in simulating snow accumulation and ablation, although there is a wide intermodal spread and a tendency to underestimate differences in snow mass between open and forested areas. Most models capture the large differences in surface albedos and temperatures between forest canopies and open snow well. There is, however, a strong tendency for models to underestimate soil temperature under snow, particularly for forest sites, and this would have large consequences for simulations of runoff and biological processes in the soil.

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom

WSL Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Department of Land and Water Resources Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Climate Research Division, Environment Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Climate Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Fort Collins, Colorado

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: R. Essery, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3JW, United Kingdom, E-mail: richard.essery@ed.ac.uk
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