Incorporating Radiation Inputs into the Snowmelt Runoff Model

TitleIncorporating Radiation Inputs into the Snowmelt Runoff Model
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsBrubaker K, Rango A, Kustas W
JournalHydrological Process
Start Page1329
Date Published04/1996
Keywordsdegree-day, net radiation, runoff, snowmelt

Process-based, distributed-area snowmelt runoff models operating at small scales are essential to understand subtle effects of climate change, but require data not commonly available. Temperature index models operating over large areas provide realistic simulations of basin runoff with operationally available data, but lack rigorous physically based algorithms. A compromise between the two types of models is required to provide realistic evaluations of basin response to environmental changes in cold regions. One adaptation that is uniformly required for snowmelt models is the use of remotely sensed data, either as input or in model validation. At a minimum, snowmelt forecasting models need to incorporate snowcover extent information, which is currently obtained operationally. As more remote sensing capabilities come on line, models should accept upgraded information on snow water equivalent; additional remotely
sensed information on landcover, frozen soil, soil moisture, cloudiness and albedo would also be useful. Adaptations to the semi-distributed snowmelt runoff model (SRM) are underway to make it more physically based for use in large area studies. A net radiation index has been added to the model, which formerly used only a temperature (degree-day) index to melt snow from a basin’s elevation zones. The addition of radiation to the SRM allows the basin to be subdivided into hydrological response units by general aspect (orientation) as well as elevation. Testing of the new radiation-based SRM with measured radiation from a small research basin is the first step towards large scale simulations. Results from the W-3 research basin in Vermont, USA are promising. In the radiation version, the factor that multiplies the degree-day index is estimated independently of model output and is held constant throughout the season, in contrast with the degree-day version, where the corresponding factor is allowed to increase throughout the season.
Without calibrating or optimizing on this important parameter, the goodness-of-fit measure R2 is improved in two out of six test years when the radiation version of the SRM is used in place of the degree-day version in melt season simulations. When the accumulation of error is eliminated with periodic updating of streamflow, more significant improvement is noted with radiation included.