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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Simulating Snowmelt Processes During Rain-on-Snow over a Semi-Arid Mountain Basin

Authors
item Marks, Daniel
item Link, Tim - OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
item Winstral, Adam
item Garen, David - NRCS

Submitted to: Annals Of Glaciology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 15, 2000
Publication Date: June 20, 2001
Citation: Marks, Daniel G., Link, Tim, Winstral, Adam H., Garen, David; Simulating Snowmelt Processes During Rain-On-Snow Over a Semi-Arid Mountain Basin, Annals of Glaciology, journal, pp. 195-202, v. 32, 2001.

Interpretive Summary: In the Pacific Northwest of North America significant flooding can occur during mid-winter rain-on-snow events. Warm, wet Pacific storms caused significant floods in the Pacific Northwest in February 1996, January 1997, and January 1998. Rapid melting of the mountain snow cover substantially augmented discharge during these flood events. An energy balance snowmelt model is used to simulate snowmelt processes during the January 1997 event over a small head-water basin within the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) located in the Owyhee Mts. Of southwestern Idaho, USA. This sub-basin is 34 percent forested (12 percent fir, 22 percent aspen, and 66 percent mixed sagebrush (primarily mountain big sagebrush). Data from paired open and forested experimental sites were used to drive the model. Model forcing data were corrected for topographic and vegetation canopy effects. The event was preceeded by cold, stormy conditions that developed a significant snow cover over th sub-basin. The snow cover at sites protected by forest cover was slightly reduced, while at open sites significant snowmelt occurred. The warm, moist and windy conditions during the flooding event produced substantially higher melt rates in exposed areas where sensible and latent heat exchanges contributed 60-90 percent of the energy for snowmelt. Simulated snow cover development and ablation during the model run closely matched measured condition at the two experimental sites. This experiment shows the sensitivity of snowmelt processes to both climate and land-cover, and illustrates how the forest canopy is coupled to the hydrologic cycle in mountainous areas.

Technical Abstract: In the Pacific Northwest of North America significant flooding can occur during mid-winter rain-on-snow events. Warm, wet Pacific storms caused significant floods in the Pacific Northwest in February 1996, January 1997, and January 1998. Rapid melting of the mountain snow cover substantially augmented discharge during these flood events. An energy balance snowmelt model is used to simulate snowmelt processes during the January 1997 event over a small head-water basin within the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) located in the Owyhee Mts. Of southwestern Idaho, USA. This sub-basin is 34 percent forested (12 percent fir, 22 percent aspen, and 66 percent mixed sagebrush (primarily mountain big sagebrush). Data from paired open and forested experimental sites were used to drive the model. Model forcing data were corrected for topographic and vegetation canopy effects. The event was preceeded by cold, stormy conditions that developed a significant snow cover over th sub-basin. The snow cover at sites protected by forest cover was slightly reduced, while at open sites significant snowmelt occurred. The warm, moist and windy conditions during the flooding event produced substantially higher melt rates in exposed areas where sensible and latent heat exchanges contributed 60-90 percent of the energy for snowmelt. Simulated snow cover development and ablation during the model run closely matched measured condition at the two experimental sites. This experiment shows the sensitivity of snowmelt processes to both climate and land-cover, and illustrates how the forest canopy is coupled to the hydrologic cycle in mountainous areas.

Last Modified: 7/24/2014
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