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A temperature-precipitation-based model of thirty-year mean snowpack accumulation and melt in Oregon, USA

Authors

  • Scott G. Leibowitz,

    Corresponding author
    1. US Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
    • US Environmental Protection Agency NHEERL-WED, 200 SW 35th St, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA.
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  • Parker J. Wigington Jr.,,

    1. US Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
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  • Randy L. Comeleo,

    1. US Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
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  • Joseph L. Ebersole

    1. US Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
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  • This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Abstract

High-resolution, spatially extensive climate grids can be useful in regional hydrologic applications. However, in regions where precipitation is dominated by snow, snowmelt models are often used to account for timing and magnitude of water delivery. We developed an empirical, nonlinear model to estimate 30-year means of monthly snowpack and snowmelt throughout Oregon. Precipitation and temperature for the period 1971–2000, derived from 400-m resolution PRISM data, and potential evapotranspiration (estimated from temperature and day length) drive the model. The model was calibrated using mean monthly data from 45 SNOTEL sites and accurately estimated snowpack at 25 validation sites: R2 = 0·76, Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE) = 0·80. Calibrating it with data from all 70 SNOTEL sites gave somewhat better results (R2 = 0·84, NSE = 0·85). We separately applied the model to SNOTEL stations located < 200 and ≥ 200 km from the Oregon coast, since they have different climatic conditions. The model performed equally well for both areas. We used the model to modify moisture surplus (precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration) to account for snowpack accumulation and snowmelt. The resulting values accurately reflect the shape and magnitude of runoff at a snow-dominated basin, with low winter values and a June peak. Our findings suggest that the model is robust with respect to different climatic conditions, and that it can be used to estimate potential runoff in snow-dominated basins. The model may allow high-resolution, regional hydrologic comparisons to be made across basins that are differentially affected by snowpack, and may prove useful for investigating regional hydrologic response to climate change. Published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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