We applied a version of the Regional Hydro-Ecologic Simulation System (RHESSys) that implements snow redistribution, elevation partitioning, and wind-driven sublimation to Loch Vale Watershed (LVWS), an alpine-subalpine Rocky Mountain catchment where snow accumulation and ablation dominate the hydrologic cycle. We compared simulated discharge to measured discharge and the simulated snow distribution to photogrammetrically rectified aerial (remotely sensed) images. Snow redistribution was governed by a topographic similarity index. We subdivided each hillslope into elevation bands that had homogeneous climate extrapolated from observed climate. We created a distributed wind speed field that was used in conjunction with daily measured wind speeds to estimate sublimation. Modeling snow redistribution was critical to estimating the timing and magnitude of discharge. Incorporating elevation partitioning improved estimated timing of discharge but did not improve patterns of snow cover since wind was the dominant controller of areal snow patterns. Simulating wind-driven sublimation was necessary to predict moisture losses.
Additional publication details
Simulations of snow distribution and hydrology in a mountain basin