Variable-Resolution Ensemble Climatology Modeling of Sierra Nevada Snowpack within the Community Earth System Model (CESM)

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Alan Rhoades1, Paul Aaron Ullrich2, Colin M. Zarzycki3,4, Michael Levy4 and Mark Taylor5, (1)University of California - Davis, Davis, CA, United States, (2)Univ California Davis, Fremont, CA, United States, (3)University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, (4)National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States, (5)Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, United States
Snowpack is crucial for the western USA, providing around 75% of the total fresh water supply (Cayan et al., 1996) and buffering against seasonal aridity impacts on agricultural, ecosystem, and urban water demands. The resilience of the California water system is largely dependent on natural stores provided by snowpack. This resilience has shown vulnerabilities due to anthropogenic global climate change. Historically, the northern Sierras showed a net decline of 50-75% in snow water equivalent (SWE) while the southern Sierras showed a net accumulation of 30% (Mote et al., 2005). Future trends of SWE highlight that western USA SWE may decline by 40-70% (Pierce and Cayan, 2013), snowfall may decrease by 25-40% (Pierce and Cayan, 2013), and more winter storms may tend towards rain rather than snow (Bales et al., 2006). The volatility of Sierran snowpack presents a need for scientific tools to help water managers and policy makers assess current and future trends. A burgeoning tool to analyze these trends comes in the form of variable-resolution global climate modeling (VRGCM). VRGCMs serve as a bridge between regional and global models and provide added resolution in areas of need, eliminate lateral boundary forcings, provide model runtime speed up, and utilize a common dynamical core, physics scheme and sub-grid scale parameterization package. A cubed-sphere variable-resolution grid with 25 km horizontal resolution over the western USA was developed for use in the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM) within the Community Earth System Model (CESM). A 25-year three-member ensemble climatology (1980-2005) is presented and major snowpack metrics such as SWE, snow depth, snow cover, and two-meter surface temperature are assessed. The ensemble simulation is also compared to observational, reanalysis, and WRF model datasets. The variable-resolution model provides a mechanism for reaching towards non-hydrostatic scales and simulations are currently being developed with refined nests of 12.5km resolution over California.