Using Gridded Snow Covered Area and Snow-Water Equivalence Spatial Data Sets to Improve Snow-Pack Depletion Simulation in a Continental Scale Hydrologic Model

Thursday, 18 December 2014
John C Risley, USGS Oregon Water Science Center, Portland, OR, United States, Jeff A Tracey, Western Ecological Research Center, San Diego, CA, United States, Steven L Markstrom, USGS, National Research Program, Baltimore, MD, United States and Lauren Hay, USGS Colorado Water Science Center Lakewood, Lakewood, CO, United States
Snow cover areal depletion curves were used in a continuous daily hydrologic model to simulate seasonal spring snowmelt during the period between maximum snowpack accumulation and total melt. The curves are defined as the ratio of snow-water equivalence (SWE) divided by the seasonal maximum snow-water equivalence (Ai) (Y axis) versus the percent snow cover area (SCA) (X axis). The slope of the curve can vary depending on local watershed conditions. Windy sparsely vegetated high elevation watersheds, for example, can have a steeper slope than lower elevation forested watersheds. To improve the accuracy of simulated runoff at ungaged watersheds, individual snow cover areal depletion curves were created for over 100,000 hydrologic response units (HRU) in the continental scale U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Hydrologic Model (NHM). NHM includes the same components of the USGS Precipitation-Runoff-Modeling System (PRMS), except it uses consistent land surface characterization and model parameterization across the U.S. continent. Weighted-mean daily time series of 1-kilometer gridded SWE, from Snow Data Assimilation System (SNODAS), and 500-meter gridded SCA, from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), for 2003-2014 were computed for each HRU using the USGS Geo Data Portal. Using a screening process, pairs of SWE/Ai and SCA from the snowmelt period of each year were selected. SCA values derived from imagery that did not have any cloud cover and were >0 and <100 percent were selected. Unrealistically low and high SCA values that were paired with high and low SWE/Ai ratios, respectively, were removed. Second order polynomial equations were then fit to the remaining pairs of SWE/Ai and SCA to create a unique curve for each HRU. Simulations comparing these new curves with an existing single default curve in NHM will be made to determine if there are significant improvements in runoff.