Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
Research article
25 Aug 2016
Research article |  | 25 Aug 2016

Multilevel spatiotemporal validation of snow/ice mass balance and runoff modeling in glacierized catchments

Florian Hanzer, Kay Helfricht, Thomas Marke, and Ulrich Strasser

Abstract. In this study, the fully distributed, physically based hydroclimatological model AMUNDSEN is set up for catchments in the highly glacierized Ötztal Alps (Austria, 558 km2 in total). The model is applied for the period 1997–2013, using a spatial resolution of 50 m and a temporal resolution of 1 h. A novel parameterization for lateral snow redistribution based on topographic openness is presented to account for the highly heterogeneous snow accumulation patterns in the complex topography of the study region. Multilevel spatiotemporal validation is introduced as a systematic, independent, complete, and redundant validation procedure based on the observation scale of temporal and spatial support, spacing, and extent. This new approach is demonstrated using a comprehensive set of eight independent validation sources: (i) mean areal precipitation over the period 1997–2006 derived by conserving mass in the closure of the water balance, (ii) time series of snow depth recordings at the plot scale, (iii–iv) multitemporal snow extent maps derived from Landsat and MODIS satellite data products, (v) the snow accumulation distribution for the winter season 2010/2011 derived from airborne laser scanning data, (vi) specific surface mass balances for three glaciers in the study area, (vii) spatially distributed glacier surface elevation changes for the entire area over the period 1997–2006, and (viii) runoff recordings for several subcatchments. The results indicate a high overall model skill and especially demonstrate the benefit of the new validation approach. The method can serve as guideline for systematically validating the coupled components in integrated snow-hydrological and glacio-hydrological models.

Short summary
The hydroclimatological model AMUNDSEN is set up to simulate snow and ice accumulation, ablation, and runoff for a study region in the Ötztal Alps (Austria) in the period 1997–2013. A new validation concept is introduced and demonstrated by evaluating the model performance using several independent data sets, e.g. snow depth measurements, satellite-derived snow maps, lidar data, glacier mass balances, and runoff measurements.