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Water Vapor Fluxes from Snow Covered

Landscapes: The Importance of Biotic
and Abiotic-Mediated Processes

Adrian A. Harpold
Natural Resources and Environmental Science
University of Nevada, Reno
CUAHSI Cyberseminar 4/17/2015

Ecohydrological Paradoxes and Tradeoffs
of Water Vapor Fluxes in Snowy Systems
•  How can snowmelt be both an efficient irrigator of
vegetation and streamflow generation?
•  Will warming temperatures generate more/less vapor loss?
•  What are the tradeoffs between canopy interception and
snowpack sublimation?
•  What are the tradeoffs between abiotic and biotic vapor
losses on overall water budgets?
•  What can we learn from natural experiments (i.e. forest
disturbance) to answer these questions?

Acknowledgements
•  Paul  Brooks,  University  of  Utah  
•  Joel  Biederman,  USDA  ARS  
•  Patrick  Broxton,  University  of  Arizona  
•  John  Knowles,  University  of  Colorado  
•  Theo  Barnhart,  University  of  Colorado  
•  Noah  Molotch,  University  of  Colorado,  JPL  

Topography, Water, and Carbon Co-vary
1981-2010 Mean Precipitation

S. Rockies

Sierra Nevada

Appalachians

Topography, Water, and Carbon Co-vary
1981-2010
1981-2010Mean
Min Temperature
Precipitation

S. Rockies

Appalachians

Sierra Nevada

5

Topography, Water, and Carbon Co-vary
1981-2010
1981-2010Mean
Min Temperature
Precipitation

S. Rockies

Appalachians

Sierra Nevada

Kellendorfer et al., 2011, RSE

6

The Water Balance of SnowDominated Systems
From USFS

•  Water balance is dynamic
–  Example: Upper Truckee, CA

•  Simplified equation
–  P=ET+Q

30-Year Average

ET
Q

Wet Year
P=155 cm

ET
Q

Dry Year
P=73 cm

ET
Q

The Water Balance of SnowDominated Systems
•  Water balance is dynamic

Streamflow

Interception

–  Example: Upper Truckee, CA
Snow
sublimation

•  More resolved equation:

Storage

P=Esoil+Vinterception+Vsublimation+T+Q+ΔS

•  How do we partition P into
various stores and fluxes?

Transpiration
Soil evap

Dry Year
P=73 cm

ET
Q

Biotic Water Demand is Changing:
Effects of Forest Fire
Beetle Outbreaks (Meddens et al., 2012)

Year 2000 Fire Regime

Snowmelt Timing
Westerling et al., 2006

Schmidt et al., 2002

Large departure from historical means
Small departure from historical means

Snowpack  Dynamics  Are  Changing:  
Changes  in  AccumulaIon  
Change in snow to rain
Nov to March 1949-2004

Mote  et  al.,  2009  

Smaller April
1 snowpacks

More
rain,
less
snow

Change SWE
1950-2000
Knowles, 2006, Journal of Climate

Snowpack  Dynamics  Are  Changing:  
Changes  in  AblaIon  
•  Trends  over  the  last  30  years  (1980-­‐2010)  
–  Shorter  snowmelts  (SM50=Ime  50%  melt  occurs)  
–  Increased  sublimaIon  (SWE:  Winter  P  raIo)  

Harpold  et  al.,  2012,  WRR  

Paradox/Tradeoff 1: How can
snowmelt be both an efficient
irrigator of vegetation and
streamflow generation?

Snow is a More Efficient Streamflow
Generator Than Rain
•  Snowy watersheds show a range of ET/P
•  Snowy watersheds generate more
streamflow when normalized to climate
Under generates
streamflow

Over generates streamflow

Long-term average for
one watershed
(red=snowy, green=rainy)
Berghuijs et al., 2014, Nature CC

Snow is a More Efficient Streamflow
Generator Than Rain. Why?
•  259 sites, 2100+
station years
•  Snowmelt is
responsible for peak
soil moisture (PSM)
response across
varying stations
•  Consequently, soil field
capacity most likely to
be exceeded during
snowmelt

1:1 relationship
between peak soil
moisture and snow
disappearance

Harpold and Molotch, in prep

Snow is a More Efficient Streamflow
Generator Than Rain. Why?
•  Model results suggest that more rapid
snowmelt generates more streamflow
(less vapor losses)
110°0'0"W

40°0'0"N

45°0'0"N

120°0'0"W

35°0'0"N

High snow fractions show
range of response

Study Area

High snowmelt rates
efficiently generate
streamflow

350

Barnhart et al., in prep

Kilometers

Snowmelt is an Efficient Irrigator

2007

0

Snowmelt begins &
NEE increases

NEE umol/m2/s

Snow
SnowDepth
depth cm (cm)

200

100

Maximum annual NEE
occurs at snow
disappearance

0

NEE (umol/m2/s)

•  Niwot Ridge
Ameriflux
carbon
measurements
•  Corresponding
snow depth
•  Synchronicity
between carbon
uptake and
snow water
availability

0

50

100

150
Ordinal Day

200

−5

250

Snowmelt is an Efficient Irrigator
Less SWE,
less NEP

•  Longer growing season
lead to less net ecosystem
productivity (NEP)
•  Snow water used for
transpiration throughout the
year
GPP (g C m-2 week-1)

Snow derived

Hu et al., 2010, GCB

Rain derived

Paradox/Tradeoff 2: Will warming
temperatures generate more/less
biotic vapor losses?

BioIc  Controls:  LimitaIons    
•  Most  of  the  snow-­‐
dominated  
Western  U.S.  has  
both  temperature  
and  water  
limitaIons  on  
transpiraIon  

Boisvenue and Running, 2006; GCB

Biotic Controls: Changes in
Temperature Limitations
•  Most runoff is generated
at high elevations
•  Reduced temperature
limitations can increase
ET and decrease runoff
•  Assumes forests move
up in elevation

Most runoff comes from high elevations

Increased ET w/
warming

Goulden and Bales, 2014, PNAS

Biotic Controls: Importance of
Alpine and Subalpine Area
•  Spatial distributions matter!
–  35% of catchment area generates 60% of streamflow
–  Catchment water balance will depend on how these
ecosystems respond and adapt to warming
temperatures
From niwot.colorado.edu

Knowles, Harpold, et al., (in review), Hydro. Proc.

Paradox/Tradeoff 3: What are the
tradeoffs between canopy
interception and snowpack
sublimation?
 

Abiotic Controls: Tradeoffs Between
Interception and Snowpack Ablation

Peak SWE to P Ratio
(SWE/P)

•  Distribution of snow in healthy
forests reflects interception
and sublimation losses

Canopy sublimation

Snowpack sublimation

Canopy cover

Forest Structure Influences on Abiotic
Vapor Losses
1000 m

•  Lidar shows impacts of
interception and ablation
across mosaic of canopy
structure and topography
•  Canopy position matters!

100 m

robability%of%Occurrence%

Snow"
Depth"(cm)" Under%Canopy%
200" Near%Canopy%

0.4%
0.3%

Distant

Near canopy

Under canopy

N

0.2%

Distant%Canopy%
Observed:%Solid%Line%
Modeled:%Dashed%Line%
100"

0.1%
%%%0% 0"

Broxton et al., Ecohydrology, 2015

Predicting Abiotic Vapor Losses: Snow
Physics and Laser Mapping (SnowPALM)

•  Topography and
canopy structure
parameterized at
1-m resolution
•  Forced by tower
micrometeorology
•  Verified with snow
depth at 1-m scale

Broxton et al., Ecohydrology, 2015

PredicIng  AbioIc  Vapor  Losses:  Site-­‐Level  
Controls  
•  Climate and forest
structure lead to
differing tradeoffs
between interception
and snow sublimation at
each site

Boulder, CO
Snowpack  Vapor  
Loss  (mm)  

Jemez, NM
Snowpack  Vapor  
Loss  (mm)  

Fraction of Winter P

50%

Jemez, NM
40%

119                                        166                                        212   39                                            65                                            92  

Boulder, CO

Broxton et al., Ecohydrology, 2015

30%

20%

10%

0%
Snow sublimation

Interception

Total vapor losses

Smart Forest Management: Fine-Scale
Canopy Matters For Water Partitioning
•  Higher resolution leads to different
estimates using the same physics
•  Characterizing canopy as ‘under’ or
‘open’ is insufficient

Fraction of total V
from sublimation

75%

70%

1000 m
100 m

Boulder Creek

Sublimation
increases 15%

Jemez, NM
Boulder, CO

65%

60%

Jemez River

55%

50%
1 meter

3 meter

10 meter

30 meter

100 meter

Broxton et al.,
Ecohydrology, 2015

Paradox/Tradeoff 4: What are the
tradeoffs between abiotic and biotic
vapor losses in snow dominated
systems?
 

Tradeoffs In Abiotic and Biotic
Vapor Losses: Forests and Alpine
•  Response of water budgets depend strongly on
distribution of abiotic and biotic-mediated processes
•  Changes in runoff generation in alpine areas from
warming could overwhelm changes in subalpine forests
From niwot.colorado.edu

Biotic: less efficient
streamflow generator, more
sensitive to climate

Abiotic: more efficient
streamflow generator,
less sensitive to climate
Knowles, Harpold, et al., (in review), Hydro. Proc.

What can we learn from natural
experiments to answer understand
paradoxes and tradeoffs in vapor
losses from snow-dominated
systems?  

Forest Disturbance in the Southern
Rockies: A Natural Experiment
Can we use forest
disturbance to learn
about:
•  Tradeoffs between
interception and
snowpack
sublimation?
•  Tradeoffs between
abiotic and biotic
vapor losses?

MPB impacts
Chimney Park, WY

Denver, CO

Impacted study
catchments

Heavy fire impacts
Las Conchas, NM

Hydrologic
Partitioning Anomaly

Effects of Disturbance: Expectations
from Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB)
(weeks)

(months)

(years)

Hypothesis 2: Increased Streamflow
Hypothesis 1: Larger Snowpacks

Transpiration
Interception

Energy Anomaly

Gray Attack

Courtesy: J. Biederman

Radiationsw
Wind

Effects  of  Disturbance:  Model  Fidelity  
•  Model experiment using two land-surface models
–  CLM
–  Noah

•  Different total partitioning of vapor losses between models
Sensi&vity  to  Vegeta&on  Change  –  Chimney  Park,  WY  

LAI=1  

Water  (cm)  

600  
400  

Impacted  
   LAI=1  

Healthy  
LAI=4  

200  
0  

LAI=4  

Courtesy of D. Gochis, NCAR

CLM4   Noah  

Total  ET  
Soil  Evap  
CanEvap  

CLM4  Noah  

Effects  of  Disturbance:  Tradeoffs  Between  
IntercepIon  and  Snowpack  SublimaIon  
•  Individual snow event shows evidence of interception
changes following disturbance

New snow event (cm)

20
15
10
5
0

Healthy

Post-fire

Effects  of  Disturbance:  Tradeoffs  Between  
IntercepIon  and  Snowpack  SublimaIon  
Water"(cm)"

50"

40"

30"

20"

10"

0"

•  Surprisingly, peak snowpacks did not change after disturbance
April"2011"Snow"Survey"

SWE:P"="74%"
"

Healthy"

2011 – POST MPB (survey)

Harpold et al., 2015, Ecohydro.

Winter  precipita&on  (cm)  
April"2011"Snow"Survey"

Peak  SWE  (cm)  
SWE:P"="69%"
"
SWE:P"="74%"
"

30"
20"

40
25
Water (cm)

Water"(cm)"

Biederman et al., 2015, Ecohydro.
SWE:P"="69%"
"

40"

MPB"Die4Off"

50"

2012 – POST-FIRE (survey)

SWE:P
SWE:P == 67%
56%

Healthy

Pre-Fire
Post-fire

15
20
10
10
5

0"

0
MPB"Die4Off"

SWE:P == 62%
68%
SWE:P

20
30

10"

Healthy"

Winter P
Maximum SWE

Winter Vapor Flux/Precipitation
(cm/cm)

Effects  of  Disturbance:  Tradeoffs  Between  
IntercepIon  and  Snowpack  SublimaIon  
50%

Healthy

MPB die-off

40%
30%
20%
Biederman,
Harpold, et al.,
WRR

10%
0%
2010

2011

2012

•  Change from sublimation in
canopy (Healthy) to sublimation
of the snowpack (Disturbed)
•  Energy to snowpack increased
following disturbance

Site

Healthy below/above
NWT Above Canopy
MPB
below/above
Sub-canopy

Wind
Speed
(m/s)

Rsw
(W/m2)

9%

11%

4.112%
(2.4)
0.38 (0.15)

131
(65)
20%
14 (9)

Effects  of  Disturbance:  Tradeoffs  Between  
IntercepIon  and  Snowpack  SublimaIon  
Post-Fire Forest

•  Larger snowpack
sublimation postdisturbance
•  Snowpack sublimation
compensates for lower
interception (total vapor
losses still 30-45%)

Canopy sublimation

Snowpack sublimation
Canopy sublimation

Snowpack
Healthy sublimation
Forest

Summer Vapor Flux/Precipitation
(cm/cm)

Effects  of  Disturbance:  Tradeoffs  
Between  AbioIc  and  BioIc  Vapor  Losses  
80%

Healthy

MPB die-off

70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%

• 

10%
0%
2010

2011

Biederman, Harpold, et al., 2014, WRR

2012

• 

~50% of water budget to summer
vapor loss
Similar cumulative vapor losses in
post-disturbance forest

Effects of Disturbance: Tradeoffs Between
Abiotic and Biotic Vapor Losses
•  Evidence of
kinetic
fractionation
indicative of
evaporation
ONLY in
disturbed sites
Biederman, Harpold, et al., 2014, WRR

Effects  of  Disturbance:  Tradeoffs  
Between  AbioIc  and  BioIc  Vapor  Losses  
Healthy Q*
MPB die-off Q*

•  No evidence for increased
streamflow using both
measured streamflow (Q)
and water balance approach
(Q*=P-ET)

Runoff Efficiency (cm/cm)

50%

MPB die-off Q

40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
2010

2011

2012

Biederman, Harpold, et al., 2014, WRR

Effects  of  Disturbance:  Tradeoffs  Between  
AbioIc  and  BioIc  Vapor  Losses  
•  Tradeoffs between
interception and
snowpack sublimation
–  Increased energy inputs to
under canopy snowpacks

•  Potential sources of
growing season vapor
losses:
–  Greater soil evaporation
–  Compensation by trees
–  Recovering vegetation

Remaining forest
Soil evaporation
Regrowth

Tradeoffs in Abiotic and Biotic
Vapor Losses: Disturbed Forests
•  Eight watersheds in Colorado were investigated
following severe MPB disturbance

Biederman, Harpold, et al., (in review, WRR)

Tradeoffs in Abiotic and Biotic
Vapor Losses: Disturbed Forests
•  We infer abiotic-mediated vapor losses
mediate decreases in transpiration
using three different methods
Only significant changes
were towards less runoff
following disturbance

Biederman, Harpold, et al., (in review)

Take Home Points
•  Snowmelt effectively infiltrates the soil profile
thus maximizing storage (for transpiration)
and water subsidies (for runoff)
•  Tradeoffs between interception and
snowpack sublimation depend strongly on
climate and vegetation structure
•  In semi-arid climates (i.e. Rocky Mountains)
abiotic-mediated vapor losses are likely
compensating for changes in biotic-mediated
vapor losses following disturbance

Questions and Comments

References
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Berghuijs, W. R., Woods, R. A., & Hrachowitz, M. (2014). A precipitation shift from snow towards rain
leads to a decrease in streamflow. Nature Climate Change, 4(7), 583-586.
Hu, J. I. A., Moore, D. J., Burns, S. P., & Monson, R. K. (2010). Longer growing seasons lead to less
carbon sequestration by a subalpine forest. Global Change Biology, 16(2), 771-783.
Goulden, M. L., & Bales, R. C. (2014). Mountain runoff vulnerability to increased evapotranspiration with
vegetation expansion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(39), 14071-14075.
Harpold, A.A. and N.P. Molotch. Timing of snowmelt differentially influences soil moisture response in
Western U.S. mountain ecosystems. <in preparation for Geophysical Research Letters>
Knowles, J., A.A. Harpold, et al. The relative contributions of alpine and subalpine ecosystems to the
water balance of a mountainous, headwater catchment in Colorado, USA <in review at Hydrological
Processes>
Broxton, P., A.A. Harpold, J. Biederman, P.D. Brooks, P.A. Troch, &N.P. Molotch. (2015) Quantifying the
effects of vegetation structure on wintertime vapor losses from snow in mixed-conifer forests.
Ecohydrology. doi: 10.1002/eco.1565
Harpold, A.A., J. Biederman, K. Condon, M. Merino, Y. Korganokar, T. Nan, L.L. Sloat, M. Ross, and
P.D. Brooks. (2014) Changes in winter season snowpack accumulation and ablation following the Las
Conchas Forest Fire. Ecohydrology. 7: 440-452. doi: 10.1002/eco.1363.
Biederman, J.A., A.A. Harpold, D. Reed, D. Gochis, B. Ewers, E. Gutmann, & P.D. Brooks. (2014)
Increased evaporation following widespread tree mortality limits streamflow response. Water Resources
Research. 50, 5395–5409, doi:10.1002/2013WR014994.
Biederman, J., P.D. Brooks, A.A. Harpold, D. Gochis, E. Gutman, D. Reed, E. Pendall, & B. Ewers.
(2014) Multi-scale Observations of Snow Accumulation and Peak Snowpack Following Widespread,
Insect-induced Lodgepole Pine Mortality. Ecohydrology. doi:10.1002/eco.1342.
Biederman, J., Somor, A., A.A. Harpold, et al. Streamflow response to insect-driven tree mortality in
subalpine catchments. <In review at Water Resources Research>