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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Snowmelt Characteristics under Various Conditions

Author
item Cooley, Keith

Submitted to: Western Snow Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 16, 1996
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: It is difficult to accurately model snowmelt because detailed approaches require data that is rarely available and empirical approaches incorporate simplifying assumptions that do not adequately describe variable conditions typically encountered. Even scarcer are measured values of snowmelt. Thus while models produce snowmelt values, there are seldom, if ever, any actual lsnowmelt data to verify the results.Analysis of snow water losses from the snowpack over USDA NRCS snow pillows and the amount of water collected in USDA ARS melt collectors located at the bottom of the snowpack showed that daily snowmelt varied dramatically. Maximum daily snowmelt values ranged from about 30 to 180 mm per day depending on the characteristics of the snowpack and the exposure of the site. This paper is significant because it presents an analysis of snowmelt data under a variety of conditions from shallow snowpacks to deep drift, thus providing a range of snowmelt information that can be used to compare with snowmelt model simulations fo verification.

Technical Abstract: Snowmelt is affected by a number of site and meteorological factors. Snowmelt models attempt to account for these factors in various degrees from simple empirical relationships to detailed energy balance procedures. While detailed energy balance models should be superior in estimating snowmelt, there are rarely adequate data sets available in practice to use these methods without making simplifying assumptions, that usually reduce the models' accuracy. Thus the models can produce estimates of snowmelt based on the input data available and the assumptions required, but very few actual measurements are available for validation purposes, and the model results could be greatly in error. This paper presents an analysis of snowmelt data under a variety of conditions thus providing a range of snowmelt information that can be used to compare with snowmelt model simulations.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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