Identification of snow precipitation mechanisms and accumulation patterns over complex terrain with very high resolution radar data and terrestrial laser scans

Knowledge on changes in seasonal mountain snow water resources are essential e.g. for hydropower companies. Both, snow accumulation and ablation need to be investigated to make precise predictions of water stored in a seasonal snow cover. Only if the processes behind snow accumulation and ablation are understood with sufficient quantitative accuracy, the evolution of snow water resources under a changing climate can be addressed. It is known that different snow precipitation processes and snow redistribution are responsible for snow accumulation patterns in alpine terrain. In a small-scale analysis of radar data in the region of Davos, Mott et al. (2014) could identify different snow deposition patterns for homogeneous precipitation, seeder-feeder mechanism, preferential deposition and a combination of the seeder-feeder mechanism and preferential deposition. In addition to the snow precipitation mechanisms, snow redistribution due to snow-atmosphere interaction is essential to characterize snow accumulation patterns at small scales (Scipión et al., 2013). In this study we investigate small-scale patterns of precipitation for an extended area over the Dischma valley (Davos, CH) for the winter season 2014/2015. An X-band polarimetric radar was installed on a slope facing the Dischma valley and it conducted plane position indicator (PPI) scans at elevation angles of 7° and 10° (minimum distance to the ground is about 300m and 500m, respectively) and three range height indicator (RHI) scans along the Dischma valley and along the Landwasser valley (i.e. along Davos). These radar products are available with horizontal and vertical resolution of 75 meters and a high temporal resolution of 5 minutes. The specific spatial patterns revealed by the radar measurements allow to characterize the different types of winter precipitation as well as to identify cloud microphysical and dynamical processes that govern the precipitation distribution. The continuous radar measurements are also used to analyze the frequency of certain types of hydrometeors and precipitation genesis processes as well as snow precipitation patters, which are related to specific atmospheric situations. For a few snowfall events, we additionally analyze terrestrial laser scans (TLS) of steep rock faces with different orientations that were performed before and after the snow precipitation events. The results allow us to relate identified accumulation patterns to the identified precipitation patterns and confirm the importance of redistribution processes for accumulation in steep terrain.

Presented at:
33rd International Conference on Alpine Meteorology, Innsbruck, Austria, August 31 - September 4, 2015
Mott, R., D. Scipión, M. Schneebeli, N. Dawes, A. Berne, and M. Lehning (2014), Orographic effects on snow deposition patterns in mountainous terrain, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 119, 1419-1439, doi:10.1002/2013JD019880. Scipión, D.E., R. Mott, M.Lehning, M.Schneebeli, and A.Berne (2013), Seasonal small-scale spatial variability in alpine snowfall and snow accumulation, Water Resour. Res., 49, 1446-1457, doi:10.1002/wrcr.20135.

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 Record created 2016-01-29, last modified 2019-12-05

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