Observation and numerical modeling of snow on the ground : use of existing tools and contribution to ongoing developments

Samuel Morin 1
1 CEN - Centre d'Etudes de la Neige
CNRM - Centre national de recherches météorologiques
Abstract : Snow on the ground is an essential medium at the surface of the Earth. For many years, scientists have attempted to decipher its functioning, because it exerts a significant influence on the regional and global climate, and governs environmental phenomena deemed critical for human societies (water resources including hydropower potential, snow avalanches, ski tourism etc.). Numerical models with various levels of complexity have been developed to integrate existing knowledge and predict the emerging behavior of the snowpack under given meteorological conditions from the large number of intertwined processes operating inside or at its boundary. Basic and advanced observation tools have been imagined and built to probe the physical properties of snow and contribute to better document the physical state of the snowpack and its time evolution. This document summarizes my own contribution to the use and development of various tools used to observe and model the time evolution of snow on the ground. Special emphasis is placed on detailed snowpack modeling using the multilayer snowpack model Crocus, which serves as a knowledge integrator and allows to project the role of physical processes within the snowpack into various other scientific fields covering not only numerical weather prediction, climate or avalanche sciences but also mountain ecology, snow hydrology and glaciology and even the socio-economics of the ski tourism industry. My impact on intrinsic developments in Crocus has mainly concerned the representation of snow microstructure and its time evolution (termed snow metamorphism) through the reformulation of the time evolution of the specific surface area of snow in a prognostic manner. Upstream research was also carried out with a medium-range goal of improving the way physical properties of snow such as effective thermal conductivity and intrinsic permeability can be parameterized in Crocus but this does not constitute fundamental changes to the model structure. In many cases, the current version of the model already provides relevant results and their applications to more or less original contexts can lead to scientific advances. Examples of such developments include several studies on the impact of the physical properties of snow on the thermal regime of the underlying ground, or recent advances in the way snow management techniques can be represented in Crocus leading to novel ways to assess the impact of snow management practices on snowpack properties in ski resorts, in relationship to environmental, social and technical constraints. Many perspectives are offered in this field, with increased computational capabilities and increasing integration of the tools used to observe and simulate space and time variations of meteorological conditions together with a physically-sound representation of snow on the ground.
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Samuel Morin. Observation and numerical modeling of snow on the ground : use of existing tools and contribution to ongoing developments. Continental interfaces, environment. Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, 2014. ⟨tel-01098576⟩

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