The controls on peak seasonal snowpack are known to shift between forested and open environments as well as with slope and aspect. Peak snowpack is predicted well by interception models under uniformly dense canopy, while topography, wind and radiation are strong predictors in open areas. However, many basins have complex mosaics of forest canopy and small gaps, where snowpack controls involve complex interactions among climate, topography and forest structure.
In this presentation we use a new fully distributed tree-scale model to investigate vegetation controls on snowpack for a range of slope and aspect, and we evaluate the energy balance in forest canopy and gap environments. The model is informed by airborne LiDAR and ground-based observations of climate, vegetation and snowpack. It represents interception, snow distribution by wind, latent and sensible heat fluxes, and radiative fluxes above and below the canopy at a grid scale of 1 m square on an hourly time step. First, the model is minimally calibrated using continuous records of snow depth and snow water equivalent (SWE). Next, the model is evaluated using distributed observations at peak accumulation. Finally, the domain is synthetically altered to introduce ranges of slope and aspect. Northerly aspects accumulate greater peak SWE than southerly aspects (e.g. 275 mm vs. 250 mm at a slope of 28 %) but show lower spatial variability (e. g. CV = 0.14 vs. CV = 0.17 at slope of 28 %). On northerly aspects, most of the snowpack remains shaded by vegetation, whereas on southerly aspects the northern portions of gaps and southern forest edges receive direct insolation during late winter. This difference in net radiation makes peak SWE in forest gaps and adjacent forest edges more sensitive to topography than SWE in areas under dense canopy. Tree-scale modeling of snow dynamics over synthetic terrain offers extensive possibilities to test interactions among vegetation and topographic controls.
Biederman J.A., Harpold A.A., Brooks P.D., Broxton P.D., Litvak M.E. (2012): The shifting nature of vegetation controls on peak snowpack with varying slope and aspect. Abstract C33D-0685 presented at 2012 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 3-7 Dec (Poster). .