The Development and Evaluation of Ground, Model and Satellite-Based Snowmelt Depletion Curves

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Hydrologic Sciences



Major Advisor

James P. McNamara


Snow accumulation and melt parameterization at a watershed or mountain-front scale is important for improvements in distributed snowmelt modeling. Snowmelt depletion curves, which relate fractional decreases in snow-covered area against normalized decreases in snow water equivalent, are an effective way to scale-up snowmelt models. This study involved the development of initial variability and model-based snowmelt depletion curves to parameterize snowpack variability throughout the snowmelt season within three study areas. The depletion curves were evaluated against ground-based depletion curves, which were considered ground truth. The evaluation determined that model-based depletion curves, developed with satellite-based fractional snow-covered area and Utah energy balance snowmelt modeled snow water equivalents, produced the most accurate results, while being the least labor intensive. The results demonstrated the ability of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite images to improve present day methods for predicting snowmelt and therefore snowmelt generated runoff.

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