Improving climate model skill over High Mountain Asia by adapting snow cover parameterization to complex-topography areas

Lalande, Mickaël; Ménégoz, Martin; Krinner, Gerhard; Ottlé, Catherine; Cheruy, Frédérique

This study investigates the impact of topography on five snow cover fraction (SCF) parameterizations developed for global climate models (GCMs), including two novel ones. The parameterization skill is first assessed with the High Mountain Asia Snow Reanalysis (HMASR), and three of them are implemented in the ORCHIDEE land surface model (LSM) and tested in global land–atmosphere coupled simulations. HMASR includes snow depth (SD) uncertainties, which may be due to the elevation differences between in situ stations and HMASR grid cells. Nevertheless, the SCF–SD relationship varies greatly between mountainous and flat areas in HMASR, especially during the snow-melting period. The new parameterizations that include a dependency on the subgrid topography allow a significant SCF bias reduction, reaching 5 % to 10 % on average in the global simulations over mountainous areas, which in turn leads to a reduction of the surface cold bias from inline-formula−1.8inline-formulaC to about inline-formula−1inline-formulaC in High Mountain Asia (HMA). Furthermore, the seasonal hysteresis between SCF and SD found in HMASR is better captured in the parameterizations that split the accumulation and the depletion curves or that include a dependency on the snow density. The deep-learning SCF parameterization is promising but exhibits more resolution-dependent and region-dependent features. Persistent snow cover biases remain in global land–atmosphere experiments. This suggests that other model biases may be intertwined with the snow biases and points out the need to continue improving snow models and their calibration. Increasing the model resolution does not consistently reduce the simulated SCF biases, although biases get narrower around mountain areas. This study highlights the complexity of calibrating SCF parameterizations since they affect various land–atmosphere feedbacks. In summary, this research spots the importance of considering topography in SCF parameterizations and the challenges in accurately representing snow cover in mountainous regions. It calls for further efforts to improve the representation of subgrid-scale processes affecting snowpack in climate models.

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Lalande, Mickaël / Ménégoz, Martin / Krinner, Gerhard / et al: Improving climate model skill over High Mountain Asia by adapting snow cover parameterization to complex-topography areas. 2023. Copernicus Publications.

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