Can Remotely Sensed Snow Disappearance Explain Seasonal Water Supply?

Bishay, K., N. R. Bjarke, P. Modi, J. Pflug, and B. Livneh (2023), Can Remotely Sensed Snow Disappearance Explain Seasonal Water Supply?, Can Remotely Sensed Snow Disappearance Explain Seasonal Water Supply? Water, 15, 1147, doi:10.3390/w15061147.

Understanding the relationship between remotely sensed snow disappearance and seasonal water supply may become vital in coming years to supplement limited ground based, in situ measurements of snow in a changing climate. For the period 2001–2019, we investigated the relationship between satellite derived Day of Snow Disappearance (DSD)—the date at which snow has completely disappeared—and the seasonal water supply, i.e., the April—July total streamflow volume, for 15 snow dominated basins across the western U.S. A Monte Carlo framework was applied, using linear regression models to evaluate the predictive skill—defined here as a model’s ability to accurately predict seasonal flow volumes—of varied predictors, including DSD and in situ snow water equivalent (SWE), across a range of spring forecast dates. In all basins there is a statistically significant relationship between mean DSD and seasonal water supply (p ≤ 0.05), with mean DSD explaining roughly half of the variance. Satellite-based model skill improves later in the forecast season, surpassing the skill of in-situ-based (SWE) models in skill in 10 of the 15 basins by the latest forecast date. We found little to no correlation between model error and basin characteristics such as elevation and the ratio of snow water equivalent to total precipitation. Despite a relatively short data record, this exploratory analysis shows promise for improving seasonal water supply prediction, in particular for snow dominated basins lacking in situ observations.

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