Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
Research article
22 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 22 Jul 2016

Snowpack modelling in the Pyrenees driven by kilometric-resolution meteorological forecasts

Louis Quéno, Vincent Vionnet, Ingrid Dombrowski-Etchevers, Matthieu Lafaysse, Marie Dumont, and Fatima Karbou

Abstract. Distributed snowpack simulations in the French and Spanish Pyrenees are carried out using the detailed snowpack model Crocus driven by the numerical weather prediction system AROME at 2.5 km grid spacing, during four consecutive winters from 2010 to 2014. The aim of this study is to assess the benefits of a kilometric-resolution atmospheric forcing to a snowpack model for describing the spatial variability of the seasonal snow cover over a mountain range. The evaluation is performed by comparisons to ground-based measurements of the snow depth, the snow water equivalent and precipitations, to satellite snow cover images and to snowpack simulations driven by the SAFRAN analysis system. Snow depths simulated by AROME–Crocus exhibit an overall positive bias, particularly marked over the first summits near the Atlantic Ocean. The simulation of mesoscale orographic effects by AROME gives a realistic regional snowpack variability, unlike SAFRAN–Crocus. The categorical study of daily snow depth variations gives a differentiated perspective of accumulation and ablation processes. Both models underestimate strong snow accumulations and strong snow depth decreases, which is mainly due to the non-simulated wind-induced erosion, the underestimation of strong melting and an insufficient settling after snowfalls. The problematic assimilation of precipitation gauge measurements is also emphasized, which raises the issue of a need for a dedicated analysis to complement the benefits of AROME kilometric resolution and dynamical behaviour in mountainous terrain.

Short summary
Simulations are carried out in the Pyrenees with the snowpack model Crocus, driven by meteorological forecasts from the model AROME at kilometer resolution. The evaluation is done with ground-based measurements, satellite data and reference simulations. Studying daily snow depth variations allows to separate different physical processes affecting the snowpack. We show the benefits of AROME kilometric resolution and dynamical behavior in terms of snowpack spatial variability in a mountain range.