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TitleEstimating snow mass and peak river flows for the Mackenzie River basin using GRACE satellite observations
AuthorWang, SORCID logo; Zhou, F; Russell, H A JORCID logo
SourceRemote Sensing vol. 9, issue 3, 256, 2017 p. 1-20, Open Access logo Open Access
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20160294
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf (Adobe® Reader®); html
ProgramGroundwater Geoscience, Aquifer Assessment & support to mapping
Released2017 03 10
AbstractFlooding is projected to increase with climate change in many parts of the world. Floods in cold regions are commonly a result of snowmelt during the spring break-up. The peak river flow (Qpeak) for the Mackenzie River, located in northwest Canada, is modelled using the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite observations. Compared with the observed Qpeak at a downstream hydrometric station, the model results have a correlation coefficient of 0.83 (p < 0.001) and a mean absolute error of 6.5% of the mean observed value of 28,400 m3/s for the 12 study years (2003-2014). The results are compared with those for other basins to examine the difference in the major factors controlling the Qpeak. It was found that the temperature variations in the snowmelt season are the principal driver for the Qpeak in the Mackenzie River. In contrast, the variations in snow accumulation play a more important role in the Qpeak for warmer southern basins in Canada. The study provides a GRACE-based approach for basin-scale snow mass estimation, which is largely independent of in situ observations and eliminates the limitations and uncertainties with traditional snow measurements. Snow mass estimated from the GRACE data was about 20% higher than that from the Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) datasets. The model is relatively simple and only needs GRACE and temperature data for flood forecasting. It can be readily applied to other cold region basins, and could be particularly useful for regions with minimal data.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
The paper documents a new application of the gravity signal of the GRACE satellite which is used to predict snow accumulation. Using temperature input data and a simple series of equations the peak flood flow is predicted. The results are contrasted with previous results from the Red River Basin and highlight differences in the primary control on flooding between the two basins. This method is particularly applicable to large river catchments, with a sparse network of ground control stations.

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