Impact of forcing on sublimation simulations for a high mountain catchment in the semiarid Andes

Réveillet, Marion; MacDonell, Shelley; Gascoin, Simon; Kinnard, Christophe; Lhermitte, Stef; Schaffer, Nicole

In the semiarid Andes of Chile, farmers and industry in the cordillera lowlands depend on water from snowmelt, as annual rainfall is insufficient to meet their needs. Despite the importance of snow cover for water resources in this region, understanding of snow depth distribution and snow mass balance is limited. Whilst the effect of wind on snow cover pattern distribution has been assessed, the relative importance of melt versus sublimation has only been studied at the point scale over one catchment. Analyzing relative ablation rates and evaluating uncertainties are critical for understanding snow depth sensitivity to variations in climate and simulating the evolution of the snowpack over a larger area and over time. Using a distributed snowpack model (SnowModel), this study aims to simulate melt and sublimation rates over the instrumented watershed of La Laguna (513 kminline-formula2, 3150–5630 m a.s.l., 30inline-formula S, 70inline-formula W), during two hydrologically contrasting years (i.e., dry vs. wet). The model is calibrated and forced with meteorological data from nine Automatic Weather Stations (AWSs) located in the watershed and atmospheric simulation outputs from the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Results of simulations indicate first a large uncertainty in sublimation-to-melt ratios depending on the forcing as the WRF data have a cold bias and overestimate precipitation in this region. These input differences cause a doubling of the sublimation-to-melt ratio using WRF forcing inputs compared to AWS. Therefore, the use of WRF model output in such environments must be carefully adjusted so as to reduce errors caused by inherent bias in the model data. For both input datasets, the simulations indicate a similar sublimation fraction for both study years, but ratios of sublimation to melt vary with elevation as melt rates decrease with elevation due to decreasing temperatures. Finally results indicate that snow persistence during the spring period decreases the ratio of sublimation due to higher melt rates.

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Réveillet, Marion / MacDonell, Shelley / Gascoin, Simon / et al: Impact of forcing on sublimation simulations for a high mountain catchment in the semiarid Andes. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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