Using Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment data to derive corrections to precipitation data sets and improve modelled snow mass at high latitudes

Robinson, Emma L.; Clark, Douglas B.

The amount of lying snow calculated by a land surface model depends in part on the amount of snowfall in the meteorological data that are used to drive the model. We show that commonly used data sets differ in the amount of snowfall, and more generally precipitation, over four large Arctic basins. An independent estimate of the cold-season precipitation is obtained by combining water balance information from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) with estimates of evaporation and river discharge and is generally higher than that estimated by four commonly used meteorological data sets. We use the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) land surface model to calculate the snow water equivalent (SWE) over the four basins. The modelled seasonal maximum SWE is 38 % less than observation-based estimates on average, and the modelled basin discharge is significantly underestimated, consistent with the lack of snowfall. We use the GRACE-derived estimate of precipitation to define per-basin scale factors that are applied to the driving data and increase the amount of cold-season precipitation by 28 % on average. In turn this increases the modelled seasonal maximum SWE by 30 %, although this is still underestimated compared to observations by 19 % on average. A correction for the undercatch of precipitation by gauges is compared with the the GRACE-derived correction. Undercatch correction increases the amount of cold-season precipitation by 23 % on average, which indicates that some, but not all, of the underestimation can be removed by implementing existing undercatch correction algorithms. However, even undercatch-corrected data sets contain less precipitation than the GRACE-derived estimate in some regions, and it is likely that there are other biases that are not currently accounted for in gridded meteorological data sets. This study shows that revised estimates of precipitation can lead to improved modelling of SWE, but much more modest improvements are found in modelled river discharge. By providing methods to better define the precipitation inputs to the system, the current study paves the way for subsequent work on key hydrological processes in high-latitude basins.

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Robinson, Emma L. / Clark, Douglas B.: Using Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment data to derive corrections to precipitation data sets and improve modelled snow mass at high latitudes. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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