08 Aug 2023
 | 08 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Spatio-temporal information propagation using sparse observations in hyper-resolution ensemble-based snow data assimilation

Esteban Alonso-González, Kristoffer Aalstad, Norbert Pirk, Marco Mazzolini, Désirée Treichler, Paul Leclercq, Sebastian Westermann, Juan Ignacio López-Moreno, and Simon Gascoin

Abstract. Monitoring the snowpack remains challenging in part due to the limited availability of observations. On the one hand, the deployment of dense ground-based monitoring networks is hampered by logistical hurdles. On the other hand, satellite-based remote sensing products provide only partial information about the snowpack, often limited to snow-covered area or surface temperature. Numerical models are a valuable tool to help fill the gaps in snowpack monitoring. Model performance is nonetheless contingent upon the quality of meteorological forcing, which is often highly uncertain especially in complex terrain. To address these limitations, data assimilation techniques that integrate available observations with snow models have been proposed as a viable option to simultaneously help constrain model uncertainty and add value to observations by improving estimates of the snowpack state. However, the propagation of information from spatially sparse observations in high resolution simulations remains an under-explored topic. To remedy this, the development of data assimilation techniques that can spread information in space is a crucial step. Herein, we examine the potential of spatio-temporal data assimilation for integrating sparse snow depth observations with hyper-resolution (5 m) snow simulations in the Izas central Pyrenean experimental catchment (Spain). Our experiments were developed using the Multiple Snow Data Assimilation System (MuSA) with new improvements to tackle the spatio-temporal data assimilation. Therein, we used a Deterministic Ensemble Smoother with Multiple Data Assimilation (DES-MDA) with domain localization.

Three different experiments were performed to showcase capabilities of spatio-temporal information transfer in hyper-resolution snow simulations. Experiment I employed the conventional geographical Euclidean distance to map the similarity between cells. Experiment II utilized the Mahalanobis distance in a multi-dimensional topographic space using terrain parameters extracted from a digital elevation model. Experiment III utilized a more direct mapping of snowpack similarity from a single complete snow depth map together with the easting and northing coordinates. Although all experiments showed a noticeable improvement in the snow patterns in the catchment compared with the deterministic open loop in terms of correlation (r = 0.13) and root-mean-square error (RMSE = 1.11 m), the use of topographical dimensions (Experiment II, r = 0.63 and RMSE = 0.89 m) and observations (Experiments III, r = 0.92 and RMSE = 0.44 m) largely outperform the simulated patterns in Experiment I (r = 0.38 and RMSE = 1.16 m). At the same time, Experiments II & III are considerably more challenging to set up. The results of these experiments can help pave the way for the creation of snow reanalysis and forecasting tools that can seamlessly integrate sparse information from national monitoring networks and high-resolution satellite information.

Esteban Alonso-González et al.

Status: open (until 31 Oct 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-954', Anonymous Referee #1, 31 Aug 2023 reply

Esteban Alonso-González et al.

Data sets

Inputs (forcing and observations) ready for use by 'MuSA: The Multiscale Snow Data Assimilation System Esteban Alonso González

Model code and software

MuSA: The Multiple Snow data Assimilation System Esteban Alonso González

Esteban Alonso-González et al.


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Short summary
Despite its importance, monitoring the snowpack is difficult. Here we explore how to improve hyper-resolution (5m) distributed snowpack simulations using sparse observations, which do not provide information from all the areas of the simulation domain. We propose a new way of propagating information throughout the simulations adapted to the hyper-resolution, which could also be used to improve simulations of other nature. The method has been implemented in an open source data assimilation tool.