An Improved Snow Scheme for the ECMWF Land Surface Model: Description and Offline Validation

Dutra E, Balsamo G, Viterbo P, Miranda PMA, Beljaars A, Sch&aulm;r C, Elder K
AMS, JHM August 2010,

Download PDF


A new snow scheme for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) land surface model has been tested and validated. The scheme includes a new parameterization of snow density, incorporating a liquid water reservoir, and revised formulations for the subgrid snow cover fraction and snow albedo. Offline validation (covering a wide range of spatial and temporal scales) includes simulations for several observation sites from the Snow Models Intercomparison Project-2 (SnowMIP2) and global simulations driven by the meteorological forcing from the Global Soil Wetness Project-2 (GSWP2) and by ECMWF Re-Analysis ERA-Interim. The new scheme reduces the end of season ablation biases from 10 to 2 days in open areas and from 21 to 13 days in forest areas. Global GSWP2 results are compared against basin-scale runoff and terrestrial water storage. The new snow density parameterization increases the snow thermal insulation, reducing soil freezing and leading to an improved hydrological cycle. Simulated snow cover fraction is compared against NOAA/National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) with a reduction of the negative bias of snow-covered area of the original snow scheme. The original snow scheme had a systematic negative bias in surface albedo when compared against Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) remote sensing data. The new scheme reduces the albedo bias, consequently reducing the spatial- and time-averaged surface net shortwave radiation bias by 5.2 W m-2 in 14% of the Northern Hemisphere land. The new snow scheme described in this paper was introduced in the ECMWF operational forecast system in September 2009 (cycle 35R3).