10 Jan 2022
10 Jan 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Impact of distributed meteorological forcing on snow dynamic and induced water fluxes over a mid-elevation alpine micro-scale catchment

Aniket Gupta1, Alix Reverdy1, Jean-Martial Cohard1, Didier Voisin1, Basile Hector1, Marc Descloitres1, Jean-Pierre Vandervaere1, Catherine Coulaud1, Romain Biron1, Lucie Liger2, Jean-Gabriel Valay2, and Reed Maxwell3 Aniket Gupta et al.
  • 1Institute of Geosciences and Environment, University of Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France
  • 2Station Alpine Joseph Fourier, University of Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France
  • 3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA

Abstract. From the micro to mesoscale, water and energy budgets of mountainous catchments are largely driven by topographic features such as terrain orientation, slope, steepness, elevation together with associated meteorological forcings such as precipitation, solar radiation and wind. This impact the snow deposition, melting and transport, which further impact the overall water cycle. However, this microscale variability is not well represented in Earth System Models due to coarse resolutions, and impacts of such resolution assumptions on simulated water and energy budget lack quantification. This study aims at exploring these effects on a 15.28 ha small mid-elevation (2000–2200 m) alpine catchment at Col du Lautaret (France). This grass-dominated catchment remains covered with snow for 5 to 6 months per year. The surface-subsurface coupled hyper-resolution (10 m) distributed hydrological model ParFLOW-CLM is used to simulate the impacts of meteorological variability at spatio-temporal micro-scale on the water cycle. These include 3D simulations with spatially distributed forcing of precipitation, solar radiation and wind compared to 3D simulations with non-distributed forcing simulation. Our precipitation distribution method encapsulates the spatial snow distribution along with snow transport. The model simulates the snow cover dynamics and spatial variability through the CLM energy balance module and under the different combinations of distributed forcing. The resulting subsurface and surface water transfers are solved by the ParFLOW module. Distributed forcing induce a snowpack with a more spatially heterogeneous thickness, which becomes patchy during the melt season and shows a good agreement with the remote sensing images. This asynchronous melting results in a longer melting period and smoother hydrological response than the non-distributed forcing, which does not generate any patchiness. Amongst the tested distributed meteorological forcing that impacts the hydrology, precipitation distribution, including snow transportation, is the most important. Solar insolation distribution has an important impact in reducing evapotranspiration depending on the slope orientation. For the studied catchment mainly facing east, it adds small differential melting effect. Wind distribution in the energy budget calculation has a more complicated impact on our catchment as it participate to accelerate the melting when meteorological conditions are favourable but does not generate patchiness at the end in our test case.

Aniket Gupta et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2021-639', Anonymous Referee #1, 11 Mar 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Aniket Gupta, 20 Jun 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2021-639', Anonymous Referee #2, 23 Apr 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Aniket Gupta, 20 Jun 2022

Aniket Gupta et al.

Aniket Gupta et al.


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Short summary
Patchy snow cover is a common phenomenon in mountain landscapes. It leads to a longer period of snowmelt contribution to streams. Our study shows that surface variability of snow cover leads to differences in streamflow, evapotranspiration and snowmelt responses. We have used up-to-date hydrological tools strongly constrained with data collected from field and satellite images. The study finding will be helpful for the mountain hydrology community in the proper estimation of water resources.