Surface albedo has a significant impact in determining the amount of available net radiation at the surface and the evolution of surface water and energy budget components. The snow accumulation and timing of melt, in particular, are directly impacted by the changes in land surface albedo. This study presents an evaluation of the impact of assimilating Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)-based surface albedo estimates in the Noah multi-parameterization (Noah-MP) land surface model, over the continental US during the time period from 2000 to 2017. The evaluation of simulated snow depth and snow cover fields show that significant improvements from data assimilation (DA) are obtained over the High Plains and parts of the Rocky Mountains. Earlier snowmelt and reduced agreements with reference snow depth measurements, primarily over the Northeast US, are also observed due to albedo DA. Most improvements from assimilation are observed over locations with moderate vegetation and lower elevation. The aggregate impact on evapotranspiration and runoff from assimilation is found to be marginal. This study also evaluates the relative and joint utility of assimilating fractional snow cover and surface albedo measurements. Relative to surface albedo assimilation, fractional snow cover assimilation is found to provide smaller improvements in the simulated snow depth fields. The configuration that jointly assimilates surface albedo and fractional snow cover measurements is found to provide the most beneficial improvements compared to the univariate DA configurations for surface albedo or fractional snow cover. Overall, the study also points to the need for improving the albedo formulations in land surface models and the incorporation of observational uncertainties within albedo DA configurations.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited