A Spatially Distributed Energy Balance Snowmelt Model
Snowmelt is the principal source for soil moisture, ground-water re-charge, and stream-flow in mountainous regions of the western US, Canada, and other similar regions of the world. Information on the timing, magnitude, and contributing area of melt under variable or changing climate conditions is required for successful water and resource management. A coupled energy and mass-balance model ISNOBAL is used to simulate the development and melting of the seasonal snowcover in several mountain basins in California, Idaho, and Utah. Simulations are done over basins varying from 1 to 2500 km2, with simulation periods varying from a few days for the smallest basin, Emerald Lake watershed in California, to multiple snow seasons for the Park City area in Utah. The model is driven by topographically corrected estimates of radiation, temperature, humidity, wind, and precipitation. Simulation results in all basins closely match independently measured snow water equivalent, snow depth, or runoff during both the development and depletion of the snowcover. Spatially distributed estimates of snow deposition and melt allow us to better understand the interaction between topographic structure, climate, and moisture availability in mountain basins of the western US. Application of topographically distributed models such as this will lead to improved water resource and watershed management.