Influence of slope-scale snowmelt on catchment response simulated with the Alpine3D model

Snow and hydrological modeling in alpine environments remains challenging because of the complexity of the processes affecting the mass and energy balance. This study examines the influence of snowmelt on the hydrological response of a high-alpine catchment of 43.2 km2 in the Swiss Alps during the water year 2014–2015. Based on recent advances in Alpine3D, we examine how snow distributions and liquid water transport within the snowpack influence runoff dynamics. By combining these results with multiscale observations (snow lysimeter, distributed snow depths, and streamflow), we demonstrate the added value of a more realistic snow distribution at the onset of melt season. At the site scale, snowpack runoff is well simulated when the mass balance errors are corrected (R2 5 0.95 versus R2 5 0.61). At the subbasin scale, a more heterogeneous snowpack leads to a more rapid runoff pulse originating in the shallower areas while an extended melting period (by a month) is caused by snowmelt from deeper areas. This is a marked improvement over results obtained using a traditional precipitation interpolation method. Hydrological response is also improved by the more realistic snowpack (NSE of 0.85 versus 0.74), even though calibration processes smoothen out the differences. The added value of a more complex liquid water transport scheme is obvious at the site scale but decreases at larger scales. Our results highlight not only the importance but also the difficulty of getting a realistic snowpack distribution even in a well-instrumented area and present a model validation from multiscale experimental data sets.


Published in:
Water Resources Research
Year:
2017
ISSN:
0043-1397
Keywords:
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 Record created 2017-12-08, last modified 2019-05-16

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