04 Oct 2023
 | 04 Oct 2023

Snow redistribution in an intermediate-complexity snow hydrology modelling framework

Louis Quéno, Rebecca Mott, Paul Morin, Bertrand Cluzet, Giulia Mazzotti, and Tobias Jonas

Abstract. Snow hydrological regimes in mountainous catchments are strongly influenced by snowpack heterogeneity resulting from wind- and gravity-induced redistribution processes, requiring their modelling at hectometric and finer resolutions. This study presents a novel modelling approach to address this issue, aiming at an intermediate complexity solution to best represent these processes while maintaining operationally viable computational times. To this end, the physics-based snowpack model FSM2oshd was complemented by integrating SnowTran-3D and SnowSlide to represent wind- and gravity-driven redistribution, respectively. This new modelling framework was further enhanced by implementing a density-dependent layering to account for erodible snow without the need to resolve microstructural properties. Seasonal simulations were performed over a 1180 km2 mountain range in the Swiss Alps at 25, 50 and 100 m resolution, using appropriate downscaling and snow data assimilation techniques to provide accurate meteorological forcing. Particularly, wind fields were dynamically downscaled using WindNinja to better reflect topographically induced flow patterns. The model results were assessed using snow depths from airborne LIDAR measurements. We found a remarkable improvement in the representation of snow accumulation and erosion areas, with major contributions from saltation and suspension as well as avalanches, and modest contributions from snowdrift sublimation. The aggregated snow depth distribution curve, key to snowmelt dynamics, was significantly and consistently matching the measured distribution better than reference simulations, from the peak of winter to the end of the melt season, with improvements at all spatial resolutions. This outcome is promising for a better representation of snow hydrological processes within an operational framework.

Louis Quéno et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2071', Anonymous Referee #1, 06 Nov 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2071', Anonymous Referee #2, 07 Nov 2023

Louis Quéno et al.

Louis Quéno et al.


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Short summary
Snow redistribution by wind and avalanches strongly influences snow hydrology in mountains. This study presents a novel modelling approach to best represent these processes in an operational context. The evaluation of the simulations against airborne snow depth measurements showed a remarkable improvement of the snow distribution in mountains of the Eastern Swiss Alps, with a representation of snow accumulation and erosion areas, suggesting promising benefits for operational snow melt forecasts.