Why do global reanalyses and land data assimilation products underestimate snow water equivalent

Patrick D. Broxton, Xubin Zeng, Nicholas Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


There is a large uncertainty of snow water equivalent (SWE) in reanalyses and the Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS), but the primary reason for this uncertainty remains unclear. Here several reanalysis products and GLDAS with different land models are evaluated and the primary reason for their deficiencies are identified using two high-resolution SWE datasets, including the Snow Data Assimilation System product and a new dataset for SWE and snowfall for the conterminous United States (CONUS) that is based on PRISM precipitation and temperature data and constrained with thousands of point snow observations of snowfall and snow thickness. The reanalyses and GLDAS products substantially underestimate SWE in the CONUS compared to the high-resolution SWE data. This occurs irrespective of biases in atmospheric forcing information or differences in model resolution. Furthermore, reanalysis and GLDAS products that predict more snow ablation at near-freezing temperatures have larger underestimates of SWE. Since many of the products do not assimilate information about SWE and snow thickness, this indicates a problem with the implementation of land models and pinpoints the need to improve the treatment of snow ablation in these systems, especially at near-freezing temperatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2743-2761
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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