Testing above and below canopy representations of turbulent fluxes in an energy balance snowmelt model

V. Mahat
David G. Tarboton, Utah State University
N. P. Molotch


Turbulent fluxes of sensible and latent heat are important processes in the surface energy balance that drives snowmelt. Modeling these fluxes in a forested environment is complicated because of the canopy effects on the wind field. This paper presents and tests a turbulent flux model developed to represent these processes in an energy balance snowmelt model. The goal is to model these processes using the readily available inputs of canopy height and leaf area index in a way that minimizes the number of parameters, state variables, and assumptions about hard to quantify processes. Selected periods from 9 years of eddy-covariance (EC) measurements at Niwot Ridge, Colorado, were used to evaluate the effectiveness of this modeling approach. The model was able to reproduce the above-canopy sensible and latent heat fluxes reasonably with the correlation higher for sensible heat than latent heat. The modeled values of the below-canopy latent heat fluxes also matched the EC-measured values. The model captured the nighttime below-canopy sensible heat flux quite well, but there were discrepancies in daytime sensible heat flux possibly due to mountain slope circulation not quantifiable in this kind of model. Despite the uncertainties in the below-canopy sensible heat fluxes, the results are encouraging and suggest that reasonable predictions of turbulent flux energy exchanges and subsequent vapor losses from snow in forested environments can be obtained with a parsimonious single-layer representation of the canopy. The model contributes an improved physically based capability for predicting the snow accumulation and melt in a forested environment.