Merging high-resolution airborne snowpack data with existing long-term hydrometeorological observations to improve water supply forecasting
Existing studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that ASO has value for improving forecasting ability in snow-dominated watersheds. This value has not been systematically quantified. The aim of this work is to provide a better understanding of the benefit to Reclamation and other water management agencies through addressing the following research questions: (1) How much predictive skill does ASO snowpack information add relative to conventional seasonal (water supply) streamflow forecasts? (2) Can a limited number of targeted ASO flights be used to improve future forecasts in other basins or to inform the location of new snow measurement stations that would benefit forecasting efforts?
Need and Benefit
Reclamation needs distributed snow observations to improve seasonal forecasts, as identified in a review of user needs for short-term water management decisions (Raff et al. 2013). ASO data could improve forecasts, but there is little analysis of the possible improvements relative to existing techniques. As Reclamation considers the use of ASO data, there is a need to understand the value and the number of flights required, i.e. the cost. Offices throughout Reclamation have expressed an interest in better understanding the value of ASO to their operations. The Pacific Northwest regional director identified needs to plan for "unusual runoff timing" and to find "novel opportunities" and areas of improvement for operations. To address Reclamation science strategies, this work will "investigate new technologies and methods to enhance basin hydrologic condition monitoring data" (Water Operations and Planning Research need), and "demonstrate the application of new or improved data with existing models toward enhanced operational outcomes" (Water Operations Models and Decision Support Systems need).
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