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Improving snow albedo processes in WRF/SSiB regional climate model to assess impact of dust and black carbon in snow on surface energy balance and hydrology over western U.S.

  • Author(s): Oaida, CM
  • Xue, Y
  • Flanner, MG
  • Skiles, SMK
  • De Sales, F
  • Painter, TH
  • et al.

Two important factors that control snow albedo are snow grain growth and presence of light-absorbing impurities (aerosols) in snow. However, current regional climate models do not include such processes in a physically based manner in their land surface models. We improve snow albedo calculations in the Simplified Simple Biosphere (SSiB) land surface model coupled with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) regional climate model (RCM), by incorporating the physically based SNow ICe And Radiative (SNICAR) scheme. SNICAR simulates snow albedo evolution due to snow aging and presence of aerosols in snow. The land surface model is further modified to account for deposition, movement, and removal by meltwater of such impurities in the snowpack. This paper presents model development technique, validation with in situ observations, and preliminary results from RCM simulations investigating the impact of such impurities in snow on surface energy and water budgets. By including snow-aerosol interactions, the new land surface model is able to realistically simulate observed snow albedo, snow grain size, dust in snow, and surface water and energy balances in offline simulations for a location in western U.S. Preliminary results with the fully coupled RCM show that over western U.S., realistic aerosol deposition in snow induces a springtime average radiative forcing of 16W/m due to a 6% albedo reduction, a regional surface warming of 0.84°C, and a snowpack reduction of 11 mm. 2

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