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Hydrology 2016, 3(1), 3;

Spatial Heterogeneity of Snow Density and Its Influence on Snow Water Equivalence Estimates in a Large Mountainous Basin

Snow and Avalanche Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, P.O. Box 173480, Bozeman, MT 59717-3480, USA
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Juraj Parajka
Received: 28 October 2015 / Revised: 14 December 2015 / Accepted: 31 December 2015 / Published: 12 January 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Snow Hydrology)
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Accurate representation of the spatial distribution of snow water equivalent (SWE) in mountainous basins is critical for furthering the understanding of snow as a water resource, especially in the Western United States. To estimate the spatial distribution and total volume of SWE over mountainous basins, previous work has either assumed uniform snow density or used simple approaches to estimate density. This study uses over 1000 direct measurements of SWE and snow depth (from which density was calculated) in sampling areas that were physiographically proportional to a large (207 km2) mountainous basin in southwest Montana. Using these data, modeled spatial distributions of density and depth were developed and combined to obtain estimates of total basin SWE. Six estimates of SWE were obtained using varying combinations of the distributed depth and density models and were compared to the average of three different models that utilized direct measurements of SWE. Models utilizing direct SWE measurements varied by approximately 1% around their mean, while SWE estimates derived from combined depth and density models varied by over 14% around the same mean. This study highlights the need to carefully consider the spatial variability of density when estimating SWE based on snow depth in these environments. View Full-Text
Keywords: SWE; density; modeling; spatial; variability SWE; density; modeling; spatial; variability

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Wetlaufer, K.; Hendrikx, J.; Marshall, L. Spatial Heterogeneity of Snow Density and Its Influence on Snow Water Equivalence Estimates in a Large Mountainous Basin. Hydrology 2016, 3, 3.

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