Fayad, A; Gascoin, S (2020). The role of liquid water percolation representation in estimating snow water equivalent in a Mediterranean mountain region (Mount Lebanon). HYDROLOGY AND EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCES, 24(3), 1527-1542.

In many Mediterranean mountain regions, the seasonal snowpack is an essential yet poorly known water resource. Here, we examine, for the first time, the spatial distribution and evolution of the snow water equivalent (SWE) during three snow seasons (2013-2016) in the coastal mountains of Lebanon. We run SnowModel (Liston and Elder, 2006a), a spatially distributed, process-based snow model, at 100m resolution forced by new automatic weather station (AWS) data in three snow-dominated basins of Mount Lebanon. We evaluate a recent upgrade of the liquid water percolation scheme in SnowModel, which was introduced to improve the simulation of the SWE and runoff in warm maritime regions. The model is evaluated against continuous snow depth and snow albedo observations at the AWS, manual SWE measurements, and MODIS snow cover area between 1200 and 3000ma.s.l. The results show that the new percolation scheme yields better performance, especially in terms of SWE but also in snow depth and snow cover area. Over the simulation period between 2013 and 2016, the maximum snow mass was reached between December and March. Peak mean SWE (above 1200ma.s.l.) changed significantly from year to year in the three study catchments, with values ranging between 73 and 286mmw.e. (RMSE between 160 and 260mmw.e.). We suggest that the major sources of uncertainty in simulating the SWE, in this warm Mediterranean climate, can be attributed to forcing error but also to our limited understanding of the separation between rain and snow at lower-elevations, the transient snowmelt events during the accumulation season, and the high variability of snow depth patterns at the subpixel scale due to the wind-driven blown-snow redistribution into karstic features and sinkholes. Yet, the use of a process-based snow model with minimal requirements for parameter estimation provides a basis to simulate snow mass SWE in nonmonitored catchments and characterize the contribution of snowmelt to the karstic groundwater recharge in Lebanon. While this research focused on three basins in the Mount Lebanon, it serves as a case study to highlight the importance of wet snow processes to estimate SWE in Mediterranean mountain regions.