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Hydrological response unit-based blowing snow modelling over mountainous terrain



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Wind transport and sublimation of snow particles are common phenomena across high altitude and latitude cold regions and play important roles in hydrological and atmospheric water and energy budgets. In spite of this, blowing snow processes have not been incorporated in many mesoscale hydrological models and land surface schemes. A physically based blowing snow model, the Prairie Blowing Snow Model (PBSM), initially developed for prairie environments was used to model snow redistribution and sublimation by wind over two sites representative of mountainous regions in Canada: Fisera Ridge in the Rocky Mountain Front Ranges in Alberta, and Granger Basin in the Yukon Territory. Two models were used to run PBSM: the object-oriented hydrological model, Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling Platform (CRHM) and Environment Canada’s hydrological-land surface scheme, Modélisation Environmentale Communautaire – Surface and Hydrology (MESH). PBSM was coupled with the snowcover energy and mass-balance model (SNOBAL) within CRHM. Blowing snow algorithms were also incorporated into MESH to create MESH-PBSM. CRHM, MESH and MESH-PBSM were used to simulate the evolution of snowcover in hydrological response units (HRUs) over both Fisera Ridge and Granger Basin. To test the models of blowing snow redistribution and ablation over a relatively simple sequence of mountain topography, simulations were run from north to south over a linear ridge in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Fisera Ridge snowcover simulations with CRHM were performed over two winters using two sets of wind speed forcing: (1) station observed wind speed, and (2) modelled wind speed from a widely applied empirical, terrain-based windflow model. Best results were obtained when using the site meteorological station wind speed data. The windflow model performed poorly when comparing the magnitude of modelled and observed wind speeds. Blowing snow sublimation, snowmelt and snowpack sublimation quantities were considerably overestimated when using the modelled wind speeds. As a result, end-of-winter snow accumulation was considerably underestimated on windswept HRUs. MESH and MESH-PBSM were also used to simulate snow accumulation and redistribution over these same HRUs. MESH-PBSM adequately simulated snow accumulation in the HRUs up until the spring snowmelt period. MESH without PBSM performed less well and overestimated accumulation on windward slopes and the ridge top whilst underestimating accumulation on lee slopes. Simulations in spring were degraded by a large overestimation of melt by MESH. The early and overestimated melt warrants a detailed examination that is outside the scope of this thesis. To parameterize snow redistribution in a mountain alpine basin, snow redistribution and sublimation by wind were calculated for three winters over Granger Basin using CRHM. Snow transport fluxes were distributed amongst HRUs using inter-HRU snow redistribution allocation factors. Three snow redistribution schemes of varying complexity were evaluated. CRHM model results showed that end-of-winter snow accumulation can be most accurately simulated when the inter-HRU snow redistribution schemes take into account wind direction and speed and HRU aerodynamic characteristics, along with the spatial arrangement of HRUs in the catchment. As snow transport scales approximately with the fourth power of wind speed (u4), inter-HRU snow redistribution allocation factors can be established according to the predominant u4 direction over a simulation period or can change at each time step according to an input measured wind direction. MESH and MESH-PBSM were used to simulate snow accumulation and ablation over these same HRUs. MESH-PBSM provided markedly better results than MESH without blowing snow algorithms. That snow redistribution by wind can be adequately simulated in computationally efficient HRUs over mountainous terrain has important implications for representing snow transport in large-scale hydrology models and land surface schemes. Snow redistribution by wind caused mountain snow accumulation to vary from 10% to 161% of seasonal snowfall within a headwater catchment in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and blowing snow sublimation losses ranged from 10 to 37% of seasonal snowfall.



mountains, land surface scheme, hydrological model, sublimation, blowing snow



Master of Science (M.Sc.)






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