Articles | Volume 21, issue 2
Research article
10 Feb 2017
Research article |  | 10 Feb 2017

Subgrid parameterization of snow distribution at a Mediterranean site using terrestrial photography

Rafael Pimentel, Javier Herrero, and María José Polo

Abstract. Subgrid variability introduces non-negligible scale effects on the grid-based representation of snow. This heterogeneity is even more evident in semiarid regions, where the high variability of the climate produces various accumulation melting cycles throughout the year and a large spatial heterogeneity of the snow cover. This variability in a watershed can often be represented by snow accumulation–depletion curves (ADCs). In this study, terrestrial photography (TP) of a cell-sized area (30  ×  30 m) was used to define local snow ADCs at a Mediterranean site. Snow-cover fraction (SCF) and snow-depth (h) values obtained with this technique constituted the two datasets used to define ADCs. A flexible sigmoid function was selected to parameterize snow behaviour on this subgrid scale. It was then fitted to meet five different snow patterns in the control area: one for the accumulation phase and four for the melting phase in a cycle within the snow season. Each pattern was successfully associated with the snow conditions and previous evolution. The resulting ADCs were associated to certain physical features of the snow, which were used to incorporate them in the point snow model formulated by Herrero et al. (2009) by means of a decision tree. The final performance of this model was tested against field observations recorded over four hydrological years (2009–2013). The calibration and validation of this ADC snow model was found to have a high level of accuracy, with global RMSE values of 105.8 mm for the average snow depth and 0.21 m2 m−2 for the snow-cover fraction in the control area. The use of ADCs on the cell scale proposed in this research provided a sound basis for the extension of point snow models to larger areas by means of a gridded distributed calculation.

Short summary
This study analyses the subgrid variability of the snow distribution in a Mediterranean region and formulates a parametric approach that includes these scale effects in the physical modelling of snow by means of accumulation–depletion curves associated with snow evolution patterns, by means of terrestrial photography. The results confirm that the use of these on a cell scale provides a solid foundation for the extension of point snow models to larger areas.