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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SNOW AND HYDROLOGIC PROCESSES IN THE INTERMOUNTAIN WEST

Location: Northwest Watershed Management Research

Title: Modeling wind speed and snow accumulation gradients across complex terrain from typically collected meteorological data

Authors
item WINSTRAL, ADAM
item MARKS, DANIEL
item Gurney, Robert -

Submitted to: Proceedings American AGU Chapman Conference on the GIS in the Vadose Zone
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 1, 2009
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Mountain winds exhibit strong gradients over short distances due to the influence of terrain. In winter, the acceleration of wind over wind-exposed slopes and its consequent deceleration over lee slopes strongly influences snow distribution. The heterogeneous snow distribution effects soil moisture, vegetation, effective habitat, and runoff. Capturing these gradients is difficult due to the inherent complexity of wind fields and a general lack of data from high elevation, wind-exposed locations. This study was conducted in the Reynolds Mountain East research basin in southwest Idaho, USA. The basin is uniquely instrumented with a network of wind and snow depth sensors that capture a large range of variability. Manual snow surveys are conducted twice a year to further assess snow distribution. Wind and snow trends in conjunction with detailed terrain analyses were assessed to establish relationships between wind speed, snow accumulation (including the effects of wind-induced redistribution), terrain structure and vegetation. Computationally efficient methods for distributing wind speed and snow accumulation from terrain structure, vegetation and limited point measurements were established in this analysis. These methods were used to drive a distributed mass and energy balance snow model with effective results. The developed algorithms have a physical basis and are suitable for assessing the multifaceted hydrologic impacts associated with a changing climate in mountain environs.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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