Articles | Volume 4, issue 1
05 Feb 2010
 | 05 Feb 2010

High resolution modelling of snow transport in complex terrain using downscaled MM5 wind fields

M. Bernhardt, G. E. Liston, U. Strasser, G. Zängl, and K. Schulz

Abstract. Snow transport is one of the most dominant processes influencing the snow cover accumulation and ablation in high mountain environments. Hence, the spatial and temporal variability of the snow cover is significantly modified with respective consequences on the total amount of water in the snow pack, on the temporal dynamics of the runoff and on the energy balance of the surface. For the present study we used the snow transport model SnowModel in combination with MM5 (Penn State University – National Center for Atmospheric Research MM5 model) generated wind fields. In a first step the MM5 wind fields were downscaled by using a semi-empirical approach which accounts for the elevation difference of model and real topography, and vegetation. The target resolution of 30 m corresponds to the resolution of the best available DEM and land cover map of the test site Berchtesgaden National Park. For the numerical modelling, data of six automatic meteorological stations were used, comprising the winter season (September–August) of 2003/04 and 2004/05. In addition we had automatic snow depth measurements and periodic manual measurements of snow courses available for the validation of the results. It could be shown that the model performance of SnowModel could be improved by using downscaled MM5 wind fields for the test site. Furthermore, it was shown that an estimation of snow transport from surrounding areas to glaciers becomes possible by using downscaled MM5 wind fields.