Journal of Hydrometeorology, Volume 20, Issue 3

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American Meteorological Society
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Methodological Intercomparisons of Station-Based Gridded Meteorological Products: Utility, Limitations, and Paths Forward
Andrew J. Newman | Martyn P. Clark | Ryan J. Longman | Thomas W. Giambelluca

Abstract This study presents a gridded meteorology intercomparison using the State of Hawaii as a testbed. This is motivated by the goal to provide the broad user community with knowledge of interproduct differences and the reasons differences exist. More generally, the challenge of generating station-based gridded meteorological surfaces and the difficulties in attributing interproduct differences to specific methodological decisions are demonstrated. Hawaii is a useful testbed because it is traditionally underserved, yet meteorologically interesting and complex. In addition, several climatological and daily gridded meteorology datasets are now available, which are used extensively by the applications modeling community, thus an intercomparison enhances Hawaiian specific capabilities. We compare PRISM climatology and three daily datasets: new datasets from the University of Hawai‘i and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Daymet version 3 for precipitation and temperature variables only. General conclusions that have emerged are 1) differences in input station data significantly influence the product differences, 2) explicit prediction of precipitation occurrence is crucial across multiple metrics, and 3) attribution of differences to specific methodological choices is difficult and limits the usefulness of intercomparisons. Because generating gridded meteorological fields is an elaborate process with many methodological choices interacting in complex ways, future work should 1) develop modular frameworks that allows users to easily examine the breadth of methodological choices, 2) collate available nontraditional high-quality observational datasets for true out-of-sample validation and make them publicly available, and 3) define benchmarks of acceptable performance for methodological components and products.

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A High-Resolution Data Assimilation Framework for Snow Water Equivalent Estimation across the Western United States and Validation with the Airborne Snow Observatory
C. M. Oaida | J. T. Reager | Konstantinos M. Andreadis | Cédric H. David | S. Levoe | T. H. Painter | K. J. Bormann | A. Trangsrud | Manuela Girotto | J. S. Famiglietti

Abstract Numerical simulations of snow water equivalent (SWE) in mountain systems can be biased, and few SWE observations have existed over large domains. New approaches for measuring SWE, like NASA’s ultra-high-resolution Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO), offer an opportunity to improve model estimates by providing a high-quality validation target. In this study, a computationally efficient snow data assimilation (DA) approach over the western United States at 1.75-km spatial resolution for water years (WYs) 2001–17 is presented. A local ensemble transform Kalman filter implemented as a batch smoother is used with the VIC hydrology model to assimilate the remotely sensed daily MODIS fractional snow-covered area (SCA). Validation of the high-resolution SWE estimates is done against ASO SWE data in the Tuolumne basin (California), Uncompahgre basin (Colorado), and Olympic Peninsula (Washington). Results indicate good performance in dry years and during melt, with DA reducing Tuolumne basin-average SWE percent differences from −68%, −92%, and −84% in open loop to 0.6%, 25%, and 3% after DA for WYs 2013–15, respectively, for ASO dates and spatial extent. DA also improved SWE percent difference over the Uncompahgre basin (−84% open loop, −65% DA) and Olympic Peninsula (26% open loop, −0.2% DA). However, in anomalously wet years DA underestimates SWE, likely due to an inadequate snow depletion curve parameterization. Despite potential shortcomings due to VIC model setup (e.g., water balance mode) or parameterization (snow depletion curve), the DA framework implemented in this study shows promise in overcoming some of these limitations and improving estimated SWE, in particular during drier years or at higher elevations, when most in situ observations cannot capture high-elevation snowpack due to lack of stations there.