Representation of canopy snow interception, unloading and melt in a parsimonious snowmelt model

V. Mahat
David G. Tarboton, Utah State University


Recent improvements in the Utah Energy Balance (UEB) snowmelt model are focused on snow–vegetation–atmosphere interactions to understand how different types of vegetation affect snow processes in the mountains of Western USA. This work presents field work carried out in the Rocky Mountains of Northern Utah to evaluate new UEB model algorithms that represent the processes of canopy snow interception, sublimation, mass unloading and melt. Four years' continuous field observations showed generally smaller accumulations of snow beneath the forest canopies in comparison with open (sage and grass) areas, a difference that is attributed to interception and subsequent sublimation and redistribution of intercepted snow by wind, much of it into surrounding open areas. Accumulations beneath the denser forest (conifer) canopies were found to be less than the accumulation beneath the less dense forest (deciduous) canopies. The model was able to represent the accumulation of snow water equivalent in the open and beneath the deciduous forest quite well but without accounting for redistribution tended to overestimate the snow water equivalent beneath the conifer forest. Evidence of redistribution of the intercepted snow from the dense forest (i.e. conifer forest) to the adjacent area was inferred from observations. Including a simple representation of redistribution in the model gave satisfactory prediction of snow water equivalent beneath the coniferous forest. The simulated values of interception, sublimation and unloading were also compared with previous studies and found in agreement.