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A Simple Process‐Based Snowmelt Routine to Model Spatially Distributed Snow Depth and Snowmelt in the SWAT Model

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Abstract:  We present a method to integrate a process‐based (PB) snowmelt model that requires only daily temperature and elevation information into the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model. The model predicts the spatiotemporal snowpack distribution without adding additional complexity, and in fact reduces the number of calibrated parameters. To demonstrate the utility of the PB model, we calibrate the PB and temperature‐index (TI) SWAT models to optimize agreement with stream discharge on a 46‐km2 watershed in northwestern Idaho, United States, for 10 individual years and use the calibrated parameters for the year with the best agreement to run the model for 15 remaining years. Stream discharge predictions by the PB and TI model were similar, although the PB model simulated snowmelt more accurately than the TI model for the remaining 15‐year period. Spatial snow distributions predicted by the PB model better matched observations from LandSat imagery and a SNOTEL station. Results for this watershed show that including PB snowmelt in watershed models is feasible, and calibration of TI‐based watershed models against discharge can incorrectly predict snow cover.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Respectively, Graduate Student (Fuka) and Professor (Steenhuis and Walter), Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca, New York 14853 2: Assistant Professor (Easton), Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech ESAREC, Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, 33446 Research Drive, Painter, Virginia 23420 3: Research Scientist (Brooks) and Professor (Boll), Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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