Using snow depth data to minimize the error in winter precipitation measurements

Duration: 10/2015–04/2019

Funding:Dr. Gottfried und Dr.Vera Weiss Wissenschaftsstiftung

Coordinator: Kay Helfricht

Project partner: ZAMG

In mountain regions like the Alps a significant fraction of the annual precipitation falls as snow. The timing of water resource formation and meltwater release from this snow cover have major implications on the hydrology of mountain catchments with various ecological, social and economic aspects. However, producing accurate precipitation maps in complex terrain using only remote sensing techniques and rain gauge data is a difficult task. The project pluSnow aims to combine high‐accuracy snow depth measurements and precipitation data to minimize the error of gauge undercatch on the basis of snow depth data from 55 automatic weather stations, operated by the Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) and equipped with laser sensors to measure snow depth with high accuracy.

The pluSnow project will contribute to existing research efforts around the globe which focus on improving the precision of solid precipitation measurements. Results from the proposed project help to fill gaps in the knowledge about Alpine climatology with a special focus on winter precipitation. The investigation will help to minimize errors of conventional pluviometer measurements by assimilation of measured snow depths in precipitation analysis. In this way, the results will improve gridded analysis products as well as nowcast and forecast of snow depths and precipitation in mountain regions.