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Title: Isolating forest process effects on modelled snowpack density and snow water equivalent

Understanding how the presence of a forest canopy influences the underlying snowpack is critical to making accurate model predictions of bulk snow density and snow water equivalent (SWE). To investigate the relative importance of forest processes on snow density and SWE, we applied the SUMMA model at three sites representing diverse snow climates in Colorado (USA), Oregon (USA), and Alberta (Canada) for 5 years. First, control simulations were run for open and forest sites. Comparisons to observations showed the uncalibrated model with NLDAS‐2 forcing performed reasonably. Then, experiments were completed to isolate how forest processes affected modelled snowpack density and SWE, including: (1) mass reduction due to interception loss, (2) changes in the phase and amount of water delivered from the canopy to the underlying snow, (3) varying new snow density from reduced wind speed, and (4) modification of incoming longwave and shortwave radiation. Delivery effects (2) increased forest snowpack density relative to open areas, often more than 30%. Mass effects (1) and wind effects (3) decreased forest snowpack density, but generally by less than 6%. The radiation experiment (4) yielded negligible to positive effects (i.e., 0%–10%) on snowpack density. Delivery effects on density were greatest at the warmest times more » in the season and at the warmest site (Oregon): higher temperatures increased interception and melted intercepted snow, which then dripped to the underlying snowpack. In contrast, mass effects and radiation effects were shown to have the greatest impact on forest‐to‐open SWE differences, yielding differences greater than 30%. The study highlights the importance of delivery effects in models and the need for new types of observations to characterize how canopies influence the flux of water to the snow surface.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Hydrological Processes
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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