Modeling the snow surface temperature with a one-layer energy balance snowmelt model

J. You
David G. Tarboton, Utah State University
C. H. Luce


Snow surface temperature is a key control on and result of dynamically coupled energy exchanges at the snow surface. The snow surface temperature is the result of the balance between external forcing (incoming radiation) and energy exchanges above the surface that depend on surface temperature (outgoing longwave radiation and turbulent fluxes) and the transport of energy into the snow by conduction and meltwater influx. Because of the strong insulating properties of snow, thermal gradients in snow packs are large and nonlinear, a fact that has led many to advocate multiple layer snowmelt models over single layer models. In an effort to keep snowmelt modeling simple and parsimonious, the Utah Energy Balance (UEB) snowmelt model used only one layer but allowed the snow surface temperature to be different from the snow average temperature by using an equilibrium gradient parameterization based on the surface energy balance. Although this procedure was considered an improvement over the ordinary single layer snowmelt models, it still resulted in discrepancies between modeled and measured snowpack energy contents. In this paper we evaluate the equilibrium gradient approach, the force-restore approach, and a modified force-restore approach when they are integrated as part of a complete energy and mass balance snowmelt model. The force-restore and modified force-restore approaches have not been incorporated into the UEB in early versions, even though Luce and Tartoton have done work in calculating the energy components using these approaches. In addition, we evaluate a scheme for representing the penetration of a refreezing front in cold periods following melt. We introduce a method to adjust effective conductivity to account for the presence of ground near to a shallow snow surface. These parameterizations were tested against data from the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory, CA, Utah State University experimental farm, UT, and subnivean snow laboratory at Niwot Ridge, CO. These tests compare modeled and measured snow surface temperature, snow energy content, snow water equivalent, and snowmelt outflow. We found that with these refinements the model is able to better represent the snowpack energy balance and internal energy content while still retaining a parsimonious one layer format.