Exploring the potential of forest snow modelling at the tree and snowpack layer scale
Abstract. Boreal and subalpine forests host seasonal snow for multiple months per year, however snow regimes in these environments are rapidly changing due to rising temperatures and forest disturbances. Accurate prediction of forest snow dynamics, relevant for ecohydrology, biogeochemistry, cryosphere, and climate sciences, requires process-based models. While snow schemes that track the microstructure of individual snow layers have been proposed for avalanche research, tree-scale process resolving canopy representations so far only exist in a few snow-hydrological models. A framework that enables layer and microstructure resolving forest snow simulations at the meter scale is lacking to date. To fill this research gap, this study introduces the forest snow modelling framework FSMCRO, which combines two detailed, state-of-the art model components: the canopy representation from the Flexible Snow Model (FSM2), and the snowpack representation of the Crocus ensemble model system (ESCROC). We apply FSMCRO to discontinuous forests at boreal and subalpine sites to showcase how tree-scale forest snow processes affect layer-scale snowpack properties. Simulations at contrasting locations reveal marked differences in stratigraphy throughout the winter. These arise due to different prevailing processes at under-canopy versus gap locations, and due to variability in snow metamorphism dictated by a spatially variable snowpack energy balance. Ensemble simulations allow us to assess the robustness and uncertainties of simulated stratigraphy. Spatially explicit simulations unravel the dependencies of snowpack properties on canopy structure at a previously unfeasible level of detail. Our findings thus demonstrate how hyper-resolution forest snow simulations can complement observational approaches to improve our understanding of forest snow dynamics, highlighting the potential of such models as research tool in interdisciplinary studies.
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