Effects of vegetation canopy processes on snow surface energy and mass balances

Guo Yue Niu, Zong Liang Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


This paper addresses the effects of canopy physical processes on snow mass and energy balances in boreal ecosystems. We incorporate new parameterizations of radiation transfer through the vegetation canopy, interception of snow by the vegetation canopy, and under-canopy sensible heat transfer processes into the Versatile Integrator of Surface and Atmosphere (VISA) and test the model results against the Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) data observed at South Study Area, Old Jack Pine. A modified two-stream radiation transfer scheme that accounts for the three-dimensional geometry of vegetation accurately simulates the transferring of solar radiation through the vegetation canopy when the leaf and stem area index is reduced to match the observed. VISA produces higher-than-observed surface albedo in wintertime. Implementation of a snow interception model that explicitly describes the loading and unloading of snow and the melting and refreezing of snow on the canopy into VISA reduces the fractional snow cover on the canopy and the surface albedo. VISA overestimates the downward sensible heat fluxes from the canopy to the snow surface, which leads to earlier snow ablation and a shallower snowpack than the observed. Explicitly including a canopy heat storage term in the canopy energy balance equation decreases the spuriously large amplitude of the diurnal canopy temperature variation and reduces the excessive daytime sensible heat flux from the canopy downward to the snow surface. Sensitivity tests reveal that the turbulent sensible heat flux below the vegetation canopy strongly depends on the canopy absorption coefficient of momentum. During spring the daytime temperature difference between the snow surface and the vegetation canopy forms a strongly stable atmospheric condition, which results in a larger absorption coefficient of momentum and a weak turbulent sensible heat flux. The modeled excessive downward sensible heat flux from the vegetation canopy to the snow surface is considerably reduced through the stability correction to the canopy absorption coefficient of momentum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2004


  • Radiation transfer
  • Snow interception
  • Vegetation canopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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