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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-199
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-199
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  11 Aug 2020

11 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Two-Dimensional Liquid Water Flow through Snow at the Plot Scale in Continental Snowpacks: Simulations and Field Data Comparisons

Ryan W. Webb1,2,3, Keith S. Jennings4,5,6, Stefan Finsterle7, and Steven R. Fassnacht8,9,10 Ryan W. Webb et al.
  • 1Department of Civil, Construction, & Environmental Engineering, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131 USA
  • 2Center for Water and the Environment, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131 USA
  • 3Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80303 USA
  • 4Lynker, Boulder, CO 80301 USA
  • 5Department of Geography, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557 USA
  • 6Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512 USA
  • 7Finsterle GeoConsulting, Kensington, CA 94708 USA
  • 8Ecosystem Science and Sustainability - Watershed Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523 USA
  • 9Coopertive Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80521 USA
  • 10Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523 USA

Abstract. Modelling the multi-dimensional flow of liquid water through snow has been limited in spatial and temporal scales to date. Here we present simulations using the iTOUGH2 model informed by the model SNOWPACK, referred to as SnowTOUGH. We use SnowTOUGH to simulate snow metamorphism, melt/freeze processes, and liquid water movement in two-dimensional snowpacks at the plot scale (20 m) on a sloping ground surface during multi-day observation periods at three field sites in northern Colorado, USA. Model results compare well with subalpine and alpine sites, but not a treeline site. Results show the importance of longitudinal (i.e. parallel to ground surface in the downslope direction) intra-snowpack flow paths, particularly during times when the snow surface (i.e. snow-atmosphere interface) is not actively melting. Simulations show that longitudinal flow can occur at rates orders of magnitude greater than vertically downward percolating water flow (a ratio of > 250 : 1) as a result of hydraulic barriers.

Ryan W. Webb et al.

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Ryan W. Webb et al.

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Latest update: 26 Nov 2020
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Short summary
We simulate the flow of liquid water through snow and compare results to field experiments. This process is important because it controls how much and how quickly water will reach our streams and rivers in snowy regions. We found that water can flow large distances downslope through the snow, even after the snow has stopped melting. Improved modeling of snowmelt processes will allow us to more accurately estimate available water resources, especially under changing climate conditions.
We simulate the flow of liquid water through snow and compare results to field experiments. This...
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