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Utah Water Research Laboratory

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A distributed water balance model was developed as a part of an intensive-field study to simulate the snowmelt-driven hydrologic response of a small mountain watershed using measured values of solar radiation, wind speed, air temperature, relative humidity and precipitation as input.

Snowmelt and evapotranspiration were modeled with point energy balances, written in terms of the snow surface and soil surface temperatures, respectively, corrected for local topographic characteristics and snow drifting. Meltwater was routed to the basin outlet as topography-driven, saturated subsurface flow, with all flow in excess of local transmissivity taken as surface runoff.

The model was calibrated with 1985-6 data and verified with 1992-3 data at Upper Sheep Creek, in Owyhee County, Idaho. It accurately simulated the spatial pattern of snow accumulation and ablation, and reproduced the timing and magnitude of peak basin snowmelt runoff. Runoff from rainfall on dry soil was not well modeled.