Articles | Volume 32
13 Dec 2012
 | 13 Dec 2012

The impact of different elevation steps on simulation of snow covered area and the resulting runoff variance

J. Bellinger, S. Achleitner, J. Schöber, F. Schöberl, R. Kirnbauer, and K. Schneider

Abstract. This study analyses the impact of vertical model discretisation on modelling snow covered area and the consequential effects on runoff formation of the semi-distributed water balance model HQsim. Therefore, the parameters relevant for snow modelling are varied within the frame of a uniformly distributed Monte Carlo Simulation (MCS). Since the model is based on the hydrological response unit (HRU) approach, the effect of building the HRUs with different elevation steps (250 m and 500 m) is tested for two alpine catchments. In total 5000 parameter combinations were generated for simulation. The results of modelled snow covered area were compared with thirty MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) snow cover maps for the melting periods in 2003–2011. Based on a contingency table the comparisons were evaluated by different skill measures. Finally, the pareto optimal parameter settings of each skill measure were detected. Evaluation of runoff variability within the MCS and their pareto optimal runs show reduced variances of model output resulting from an improved simulation of the snow covered area.