Submitted as: development and technical paper
29 Apr 2022
Submitted as: development and technical paper | 29 Apr 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal GMD.

Improving snow albedo modeling in E3SM land model (version 2.0) and assessing its impacts on snow and surface fluxes over the Tibetan Plateau

Dalei Hao1, Gautam Bisht1, Cenlin He2, Edward Bair3, Huilin Huang1, Cheng Dang4, Karl Rittger5, Yu Gu6, Hailong Wang1, Yun Qian1, and L. Ruby Leung1 Dalei Hao et al.
  • 1Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA
  • 2Research Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Earth Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
  • 4Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 5Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 6Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Abstract. With the highest albedo of the land surface, snow plays a vital role in Earth’s surface energy and water cycles. Snow albedo is greatly affected by snow grain properties (e.g., size and shape) and light absorbing particles (LAPs) such as black carbon (BC) and dust. The mixing state of LAPs in snow also has large impacts on LAP-induced snow albedo reduction and surface radiative forcing (RF). However, most land surface models assume that snow grain shape is spherical and LAPs are externally mixed with the snow grains. This study improves the snow radiative transfer model in the land model (ELM v2.0) of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model version 2.0 (E3SM v2.0) by considering non-spherical snow grain shapes (i.e., spheroid, hexagonal plate and Koch snowflake) and internal mixing of dust-snow and systematically evaluates the impacts on surface energy and water balances over the Tibetan Plateau (TP). A series of ELM simulations with different treatments of snow grain shape, mixing state of BC-snow and dust-snow, and sub-grid topographic effects (TOP) on solar radiation are performed. Compared with two remote sensing snow products derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, the control ELM simulation with the default settings of spherical snow grain shape, internal mixing of BC-snow, external mixing of dust-snow and without TOP can capture the overall snow distribution reasonably. The estimated LAP-induced RF ranging from 0 to 21.9 W/m2 with the area-weighted average value of 1.3 W/m2 is comparable to reported values. Focusing on the snow-related processes and surface energy and water balances, Koch snowflake shape, among other non-spherical shapes, shows the largest difference from spherical shape in spring. The impacts of the mixing state of LAP-snow are smaller than the shape effects and depend on snow grain shape. Compared to external mixing, internal mixing of LAP-snow can lead to larger snow albedo reduction and snowmelt, which further affect surface energy and water cycles. Compared to the control simulation, the individual contributions of non-spherical snow shape, mixing state of LAP-snow, and local topography to the change of snow and surface fluxes have different signs and magnitudes, and their combined effects may be negative or positive due to complex and non-linear interactions among the factors. Overall, the changes of net solar radiation in spring due to individual and combined effects range from -28.6 to 16.9 W/m2 and -29.7 to 12.2 W/m2, respectively. This study advances understanding of the role of snow grain shape and mixing state of LAP-snow in land surface processes and offers guidance for improving snow simulations and RF estimates in Earth system models under climate change.

Dalei Hao et al.

Status: open (until 24 Jun 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Dalei Hao et al.

Data sets

Dataset used in the study Dalei Hao

Model code and software

ELM code with improved snow albedo modeling Dalei Hao

Dalei Hao et al.


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Short summary
Snow with the highest albedo of land surface plays a vital role in Earth’s surface energy and water cycles. Our study demonstrates that snow grain shape and mixing state of light absorbing particle-snow play an important role in snow processes, surface energy balance and water cycle. This study offers guidance for improving snow simulations and surface radiative forcing estimates in Earth system models under future climate.