Snowmelt provides a reliable water resource for meeting domestic, agricultural, industrial and hydropower demands. Consequently, estimating the available snow water equivalent is essential for water resource management of snowy regions. Due to the spatiotemporal variability of the snowfall pattern in mountainous areas and difficult access to high altitudes areas, snow measurement is one of the most challenging hydro-meteorological data collection efforts. Development of an optimum snow measurement network is a complex task that requires integration of meteorological, hydrological, physiographical and economic studies. In this study, site selection of snow measurement stations is carried out through an integrated process using observed snow course data and analysis of historical snow cover images from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (NOAA-AVHRR) at both regional and local scales. Several important meteorological and hydrological factors, such as monthly and annual rainfall distribution, spatial distribution of average frequency of snow observation (FSO) for two periods of snow falling and melting season, as well as priority contribution of sub-basins to annual snowmelt runoff are considered for selecting optimum station network. The FSO maps representing accumulation of snowfall during falling months and snowpack persistence during melting months are prepared in the GIS based on NOAA-AVHRR historical snow cover images. Basins are partitioned into 250 m elevation intervals such that within each interval, establishment of new stations or relocation/removing of the existing stations were proposed. The decision is made on the basis of the combination of meteorological, hydrological and satellite information. Economic aspects and road access constraints are also considered in determining the station type. Eventually, for the study area encompassing a number of large basins in southwest of Iran, several new stations and relocation of some existing stations are proposed.
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