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Snowpack-climate manipulation using infrared heaters in subalpine forests of the Southern Rocky Mountains, USA, 2015


Meromy, Leah, Molotch, Noah P., Williams, Mark W., Musselman, Keith N., Kueppers, Lara M.


Agricultural and forest meteorology 203 :142-157
DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2014.12.015

Abstract

Effects of infrared heaters on snow accumulation, snowmelt, and snow–atmosphere energy exchange were examined at Niwot Ridge, Colorado (CO) and compared to a naturally warmer, but otherwise simi- lar subalpine site in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico (NM). Observed snow accumulation was 30% lower on average and snow melted out 16 days earlier in the heated plots compared to the controls. Soil temperature during snowmelt was 3 ◦ C greater on average and soil moisture was 4% lower on average in heated plots compared to controls. In NM, snow accumulation was 23% lower, snow melted 23 days earlier, soil temperature was 0.6 ◦ C greater, and soil moisture was 13% lower on average relative to CO controls. In order to estimate differences in energy and mass balance fluxes at the snow–atmosphere interface in control versus warmer plots, the 1-D, physically based snowmelt model, SNOWPACK, was used. Model results indicated that heaters alter radiative, turbulent and mass fluxes by amounts comparable to the differences between CO and NM fluxes. The proportion of the energy flux associated with latent heat exchange during snowmelt was 9–27% of the total energy flux in heated models and 19–22% of NM models compared to 3–7% in control models. Thus, sublimation loss to the atmosphere was greater in both experimentally and naturally warmer cases relative to the control case. We conclude that IR heaters can provide alterations to the timing and magnitude of snow accumulation and snowmelt consistent with conditions observed at a warmer analog site and with climate and hydrology model projections. Impacts of IR heating on energy partitioning and sublimation should be considered when designing manipulations of the snowpack, as reductions in snowmelt water may alter biological or ecological processes. 

Keywords

snow, subalpine, modeling, climate change, climate manipulation experiment, IR heaters 

Associated Niwot LTER Researchers:

Related Field Location(s):

Subalpine forestC1

Citation

Meromy, Leah, Molotch, Noah P., Williams, Mark W., Musselman, Keith N., Kueppers, Lara M., (2015) Snowpack-climate manipulation using infrared heaters in subalpine forests of the Southern Rocky Mountains, USA. Agricultural and forest meteorology 203 :142-157 , DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2014.12.015

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #DEB-1637686. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necesarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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