Evaluation of the NOHRSC Snow Model (NSM) in a One-Dimensional Mode

Nick Rutter, Long Li, Don Cline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) Snow Model (NSM) is an energy- and mass-balance model used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service for moderate-resolution spatially distributed snow analysis and data assimilation over the United States. The NSM was evaluated in a one-dimensional mode using meteorological and snowpit observations from five sites in Colorado collected during 2002–03. Four parameters estimated by the NSM [snow water equivalent (SWE), snow depth, average snowpack temperature, and snow surface temperature] were compared with snowpit observations and with estimates from another snow energy and mass-balance model, SNTHERM. Root-mean-squared differences (RMSDs) between snowpit SWE observations (January–June) at all sites and estimates from the NSM were about 11% (RMSD = 0.073 m) of the average maximum observed SWE from all sites of 0.694 m. SNTHERM exhibited only a slightly better agreement (RMSD = 0.066 m). During the winter and early spring period before snowpacks became isothermal at 273.15 K, both NSM and SNTHERM simulated significantly cooler average snowpack temperatures than observed (RMSD = 3 and 2 K, respectively). During this snow accumulation period estimates of SWE by both models were very similar. Differences in modeled SWE were traced to short periods (5–21 days) during isothermal conditions in early spring when the two models diverged. These events caused SWE differences that persisted throughout the ablation period and resulted in a range in melt-out times of 0.2–7.2 days between depth observations and modeled estimates. The divergence in SWE resulted from differences in snowmelt fluxes estimated by the two models, which are suggested to result from 1) liquid water fractions within a snowpack being estimated by the NSM using an internal energy method and by SNTHERM using a semiempirical temperature-based approach, and 2) SNTHERM, but not the NSM, accounting for the small liquid water fraction that coexists in equilibrium with snow when the snowpack surface is dry (<273.15 K).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-711
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


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