Modeling the snow depth variability with a high-resolution Lidar data set and nonlinear terrain dependency
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In the mountains of Norway, snow depth (SD) is highly variable due to strong winds and open terrain. To investigate snow conditions on one of Europe's largest mountain plateaus, Hardangervidda, we conducted snow measurement campaigns in spring 2008 and 2009 using airborne lidar scanning at the approximate time of annual snow maximum (mid‐April). From 658 empirical distributions of SD at Hardangervidda, each comprised about 4,000 SD values sampled from a grid cell of 0.5 km2, quantitative tests have shown that the gamma distribution is a better fit for SD than the normal and log‐normal distributions. When aggregating snow and terrain data from 10 × 10 m to 0.5 km2, we find that the standard deviation of the terrain parameter squared slope, land cover, and the mean SD are highly correlated (0.7, 0.52, and 0.89) to the standard deviation of SD. A model for SD variance is proposed that, in addition to addressing the dependencies between the variability of SD and the terrain characteristics, also takes into account the observed nonlinear relationship between the mean and the standard deviation of SD. When validated against observed SD variance retrieved from the same area, the model explains 81–83% of the observed variance for spatial scales of 0.5 and 5.1 km2, which compares favorably to previous models. The model parameters can be determined from a GIS analysis of a detailed digital terrain and land cover model and will hence not increase the number of calibration parameters when implemented in environmental models.