Sub-kilometer Precipitation Datasets for Snowpack and Glacier Modeling in Alpine Terrain

Vionnet, Vincent ; Six, Delphine ; Auger, Ludovic ; Dumont, Marie ; Lafaysse, Matthieu ; Quéno, Louis ; Réveillet, Marion ; Dombrowski-Etchevers, Ingrid ; Thibert, Emmanuel ; Vincent, Christian

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<p align=justify>Capturing the spatial and temporal variability of precipitation at fine scale is necessary for high-resolution modeling of snowpack and glacier mass balance in alpine terrain. In this study, we assess the impact of three sub-kilometer precipitation datasets on distributed simulations of snowpack and glacier mass balance with the detailed snowpack model Crocus for winter 2011-2012. The different precipitation datasets at 500-m grid spacing over the northern and central French Alps are coming from (i) the SAFRAN reanalysis specially developed for alpine terrain interpolated at 500-m grid spacing, (ii) the numerical weather prediction (NWP) system AROME at 2.5-km resolution downscaled with a precipitation-elevation adjustment factor and (iii) a version of AROME at 500-m grid spacing. The spatial patterns of seasonal snowfall are first analyzed for the different precipitation datasets. Large differences between SAFRAN and the two versions of AROME are found at high-altitude and in regions of strong orographic precipitation enhancement. Results of Crocus snowpack simulations are then evaluated against (i) point measurements of snow depth, (ii) maps of snow covered areas retrieved from optical satellite data (MODIS) and (iii) field measurements of winter accumulation of six glaciers. The two versions of AROME lead to an overestimation of snow depth and snow-covered area, which are substantially improved by SAFRAN. However, all the precipitation datasets lead to an underestimation of snow depth increase at the daily scale and cumulated over the season, with AROME 500 m providing the best performances at the seasonal scale. The low correlation found between the biases in snow depth and in cumulated snow depth increase illustrates that total snow depth has a limited significance for the evaluation of precipitation datasets. Measurements of glacier winter mass balance showed a systematic underestimation of high-elevation snow accumulation with SAFRAN. The two versions of AROME overestimate the winter mass balance at four glaciers and produce nearly unbiased estimation for two of them. Our study illustrates the need for improvements in the precipitation field from high-resolution NWP systems for snow and glacier modeling in alpine terrain.</p>
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