On distinguishing snowfall from rainfall using near-surface atmospheric information: Comparative analysis, uncertainties and hydrologic importance
AffiliationUniv Arizona, Dept Hydrol & Atmospher Sci
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CitationBehrangi, A., Yin, X., Rajagopal, S., Stampoulis, D., & Ye, H. (2018). On distinguishing snowfall from rainfall using near‐surface atmospheric information: C omparative analysis, uncertainties and hydrologic importance. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 144, 89-102.
Rights© 2018 Royal Meteorological Society.
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AbstractThe accurate estimation of precipitation phase has broad applications. In this study, we compared the skill of using various atmospheric variables and their combinations as predictors in accurately identifying surface precipitation phase, determined uncertainties associated with commonly used fixed temperature thresholds, and explored the sensitivity of hydrologic model output to uncertainty in precipitation phase using two case-studies. The results suggest that among all single predictors, wet-bulb temperature yields the highest skill score for determining precipitation phase and can reduce uncertainties due to regional differences, especially compared to the commonly used near-surface air temperature. However, addition of good-quality near-surface wind speed measurement to dew-point temperature and pressure showed slightly higher skill than wet-bulb temperature. We showed that the scale mismatch between temperature from stations and gridded products can cause large uncertainties in determining precipitation phase, especially in regions with rugged topography. Such uncertainties need to be considered when the relationships developed based on station data are applied to remote-sensing observations and model-generated data to separate rain from snowfall. The sensitivity of hydrologic model outputs to uncertainty in precipitation phase delineation was also assessed over two major basins in California by modifying default near-surface temperatures used in the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model. It was found that regional and scaling uncertainties in determining temperature thresholds can largely influence the accuracy of simulated downstream runoff and snow water equivalent (SWE) (e.g. up to 40% change in SWE for 2 degrees C shift in temperature threshold). Therefore, to reduce simulation uncertainties, it is important to improve rain-snow partitioning methods, consider regional variabilities in determining temperature thresholds, and perform the analysis at the highest possible resolutions to mitigate scale-related uncertainties.
Note12 month embargo; published on: 17 August 2018
VersionFinal accepted manuscript
SponsorsNational Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) GRACE [NNH15ZDA001N-GRACE]; NASA Energy and Water Cycle Study (NEWS) [NNH13ZDA001N-NEWS]; US Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food Agriculture; National Science Foundation; Water Sustainability & Climate Program [1360506/1360507]; NASA Weather [NNH13ZDA001N-WEATHER]; NASA MIRO [NNX15AQ06A]