University of Innsbruck

Snow cover Atmosphere Interactions (SAINT)


Snow cover Atmosphere Interactions (SAINT)



The seasonal mountain snow cover can lead to hazardous situations (avalanches, flooding), provides the background for hydrologic resources and constitutes an important factor for global and regional climate. Forecasting the snow cover evolution in complex terrain provides valuable information to assist with avalanche danger assessments as well as runoff estimations relevant for hydropower development and flood prevention. Furthermore, knowing the evolution and spatial distribution of the seasonal mountain snow cover allows for a better estimation of the surface albedo relevant for accurate climate modeling.

At present the assessment of the snow cover atmosphere interaction is based on in situ observations for operational applications such as avalanche warning and snow cover models are typically forced by local observations. Therefore, the proposed research aims at coupling a complex snow cover model (SNOWPACK) with a high-resolution numerical weather prediction model (COSMO) in order to forecast the spatial distribution of the snow cover.

The surface energy balance determined by atmospheric conditions controls the snow cover evolution. Hence, the capability of COSMO to predict the surface energy balance in complex terrain needs to be validated. All components of the surface energy balance in complex terrain will be measured and analyzed during two winter seasons at a location of an alpine weather station, with a special focus on the turbulent fluxes.

Model output statistics for the turbulent exchange variables in complex snow covered terrain for various atmospheric conditions will be developed and used to post-process COSMO data for use in SNOWPACK. The model chain SNOWPACK/COSMO will be verified using snow cover observations from the vicinity of the experimental site.


Project Leader:

Co-Project Leader:
Mathias ROTACH

Funding Agencies:
FWF Austrian Science Fund, Lise-Meitner-Program, Project: M1521-N26

Project Duration:
01/07/2013 to 01/06/2015

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