Skip to main content Accessibility help

Simulating complex snow distributions in windy environments using SnowTran-3D

  • Glen E. Liston (a1), Robert B. Haehnel (a2), Matthew Sturm (a3), Christopher A. Hiemstra (a3), Svetlana Berezovskaya (a4) and Ronald D. Tabler (a5)...


We present a generalized version of SnowTran-3D (version 2.0), that simulates wind-related snow distributions over the range of topographic and climatic environments found globally. This version includes three primary enhancements to the original Liston and Sturm (1998) model: (1) an improved wind sub-model, (2) a two-layer sub-model describing the spatial and temporal evolution of friction velocity that must be exceeded to transport snow (the threshold friction velocity) and (3) implementation of a three-dimensional, equilibrium-drift profile sub-model that forces SnowTran-3D snow accumulations to duplicate observed drift profiles. These three sub-models allow SnowTran-3D to simulate snow-transport processes in variable topography and different snow climates. In addition, SnowTran-3D has been coupled to a high-resolution, spatially distributed meteorological model (MicroMet) to provide more realistic atmospheric forcing data. MicroMet distributes data (precipitation, wind speed and direction, air temperature and relative humidity) obtained from meteorological stations and/or atmospheric models located within or near the simulation domain. SnowTran-3D has also been coupled to a spatially distributed energy- and mass-balance snow-evolution modeling system (SnowModel) designed for application in any landscape and climate where snow is found. SnowTran-3D is typically run using temporal increments ranging from 1 hour to 1 day, horizontal grid increments ranging from 1 to 100 m and time-spans ranging from individual storms to entire snow seasons.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Simulating complex snow distributions in windy environments using SnowTran-3D
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Simulating complex snow distributions in windy environments using SnowTran-3D
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Simulating complex snow distributions in windy environments using SnowTran-3D
      Available formats



Hide All
Abele, G. and Gow, A.J. 1975 Compressibility characteristics of undisturbed snow. CRREL Rep. 336.
Anderson, E.A. 1976 A point energy and mass balance model of a snow cover. NOAA Tech. Rep. NWS-19.
Barnes, S.L. 1964 A technique for maximizing details in numerical weather map analysis. J. Appl. Meteorol., 3(4), 396409.
Barnes, S.L. 1973 Mesoscale objective map analysis using weighted time-series observations. NOAA Tech. Memo. ERL NSSL-62.
Bernhardt, M., Zälngl, G., Liston, G.E., Strasser, U. and Mauser., W. In press. Using wind fields from a high resolution atmospheric model for simulating snow dynamics in moutainous terrain. Hydrol. Process.
Blöschl, G. 1999 Scaling issues in snow hydrology. Hydrol. Process., 13(14–15), 21492175.
Bruland, O., Liston, G.E., Vonk, J., Sand, K. and Killingtveit., Å. 2004. Modelling the snow distribution at two high arctic sites at Svalbard, Norway, and at an alpine site in central Norway. Nord. Hydrol., 35(3), 191208.
Church, J.E. 1941 The melting of snow. In Proceedings of the Central Snow Conference, December 1112, 1941, . Vol. 1. 2132.
Clifton, A., Rüedi, J.D. and Lehning, M. 2006. Snow saltation threshold measurements in a drifting-snow wind tunnel. J. Glaciol., 52(179), 585596.
Cotton, W.R. and 10 others. 2003 RAMS 2001: current status and future directions. Meteorol. Atmos. Phys., 82(1–4), 529.
Deems, J.S. , Fassnacht, S.R. and Elder, K.. 2006 Fractal distribution of snow depth from lidar data. J. Hydromet., 7(2), 285297.
Doorschot, J. and Lehning, M.. 2002 Equilibrium saltation: mass fluxes, aerodynamic entrainment, and dependence on grain properties. Bound.-Lay. Meteorol., 104(1), 111130.
Durand, Y., G. Guyomarc’h, L. Mérindol and Corripio, J.G.. 2005 Improvement of a numerical snow drift model and field validation. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 43(1–2), 93103.
Elder, K., Dozier, J. and Michaelsen, J.. 1991 Snow accumulation and distribution in an alpine watershed. Water Resour. Res., 27(7), 15411552.
Essery, R., Li, L. and Pomeroy, J.. 1999 A distributed model of blowing snow over complex terrain. Hydrol. Process., 13(14–15), 24232438.
Essery, R. and Pomeroy, J.. 2004 Vegetation and topographic control of wind-blown snow distributions in distributed and aggregated simulations for an Arctic tundra basin. J. Hydromet., 5(5), 735744.
Fels, J. and Matson, K.C.. 1997 A cognitively-based approach for hydrogeomorphic land classification using digital terrain models. In Proceedings of the Third International Conference/ Workshop on Integrating GIS and Environmental Modeling. Santa Barbara, CA, National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis. CD-ROM.
Gauer, P., 2001 Numerical modeling of blowing and drifting snow in Alpine terrain. J. Glaciol., 47(156), 97110.
Gray, D.M. , Norum, D.I. and Dyck, G.E.. 1970 Densities of prairie snowpacks. In Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Western Snow Conference. 2430.
Greene, E.M. , Liston, G.L. and Pielke, R.A.. 1999 Simulation of above treeline snowdrift formation using a numerical snow-transport model. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 30(1–3), 135144.
Hasholt, B., Liston, G.E. and Knudsen, N.T.. 2003 Snow-distribution modelling in the Ammassalik region, south east Greenland. Nord. Hydrol., 34(1/2), 116.
Hiemstra, C.A. , Liston, G.E. and Reiners, W.A.. 2002 Snow redistribution by wind and interactions with vegetation at upper treeline in the Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming, USA. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 34(3), 262273.
Hiemstra, C.A. , Liston, G.E. and Reiners, W.A.. 2006 Observing, modelling, and validating snow redistribution by wind in a Wyoming upper treeline landscape. Ecol. Model. 197(1–2), 3551.
Hirashima, H., Ohata, T., Kodama, Y., Yabuki, H., Sato, N. and Georgiadi, A.. 2004 Nonuniform distribution of tundra snow cover in Eastern Siberia. J. Hydromet., 5(3), 373389.
Jaedicke, C. 2001. Drifting snow and snow accumulation in complex arctic terrain. (PhD thesis, University of Bergen.)
Kind, R.J. 1981 Snow drifting. In Gray, D.M. and Male, eds, D.H. Handbook of snow: principles, processes, management and use. Toronto, Ont., Pergamon Press Canada Ltd., 338359.
Kind, R.J. 1992 One-dimensional aeolian suspension above beds of loose particles – a new concentration-profile equation. Atmos. Environ., 26A(5), 927931.
King, J.C., Anderson, P.S., Vaughan, D.G., Mann, G.W., Mobbs, S.D. and Vosper., S.B. 2004 Wind-borne redistribution of snow across an Antarctic ice rise. J. Geophys. Res., 109(D11), . (10.1029/2003JD004361.)
Koch, S.E. , M. DesJardins and Kocin, P.J.. 1983 An interactive Barnes objective map analysis scheme for use with satellite and conventional data. J. Climate Appl. Meteorol., 22(9), 14871503.
Kojima, K. 1967 Densification of seasonal snow cover. In Oura, H., ed. Physics of snow and ice. Sapporo, Hokkaido University. Institute of Low Temperature Science, 929952.
Kotlyakov, V.M. 1961 Results of a study of the processes of formation and structure of the upper layer of the ice sheet in eastern Antarctica. IASH Publ. 55 (General Assembly of Helsinki 1960Antarctic Glaciology), 8899.
Kuz’min, P.P. 1963. Snow cover and snow reserves. Washington, DC, US Department of Commerce and US National Science Foundation. Israel Program for Scientific Translations.
LaChapelle, E.R. 1969. Properties of snow. Seattle, WA, University of Washington. College of Forest Resources.
Lehning, M., Doorschot, J., Fierz, C. and Raderschall, N.. 2002 A 3D model for snow drift and snow cover development in steep alpine terrain. In Stevens, J.R., ed. Proceedings, International Snow Science Workshop 2002, 29 September–4 October 2002, Penticton, British Columbia. Victoria, BC, Ministry of Transportation, 579586.
Lehning, M., Völksch, I., Gustafsson, D., Nguyen, T.A. Stähli, M. and Zappa., M. 2006 ALPINE3D: a detailed model of mountain surface processes and its application to snow hydrology. Hydrol. Process., 20(10), 21112128.
Li, L. and Pomeroy, J.W.. 1997 Estimates of threshold wind speeds for snow transport using meteorological data. J. Appl. Meteorol., 36(3), 205213.
Li, L., Cline, D., Fall, G., Rost, A. and Nilsson, A.. 2001 Performance and suitability of single- and multiple-layer snow models for operational, moderate-resolution, CONUS snow data assimilation. In Proceedings of the 58th Annual Eastern Snow Conference, 17–19 May 2001, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 317326.
Liston, G.E. 2004 Representing subgrid snow cover heterogeneities in regional and global models. J. Climate, 17(6), 13811397.
Liston, G.E. and Elder, K.. 2006a. A distributed snow-evolution modeling system (SnowModel). J. Hydromet., 7(6), 12591276.
Liston, G.E. and Elder, K.. 2006b. A meteorological distribution system for high-resolution terrestrial modeling (MicroMet). J. Hydromet., 7(2), 217234.
Liston, G.E. and Hall, D.K.. 1995 An energy-balance model of lake-ice evolution. J. Glaciol., 41(138), 373382.
Liston, G.E. and Sturm, M.. 1998 A snow-transport model for complex terrain. J. Glaciol., 44(148), 498516.
Liston, G.E. and Sturm, M.. 2002 Winter precipitation patterns in arctic Alaska determined from a blowing-snow model and snow-depth observations. J. Hydromet., 3(6), 646659.
Liston, G.E. and Sturm, M.. 2004 The role of winter sublimation in the Arctic moisture budget. Nord. Hydrol., 35(4), 325334.
Liston, G.E. , Brown, R.L. and Dent, J.. 1993a. Application of the E-ε turbulence closure model to separated atmospheric surface-layer flows. Bound.-Lay. Meteorol., 66(3), 281301.
Liston, G.E., Brown, R.L. and Dent, J.D.. 1993b. A two-dimensional computational model of turbulent atmospheric surface flows with drifting snow. Ann. Glaciol., 18, 281286.
Liston, G.E., Winther, J.G., Bruland, O., Elvehøy, O., Sand, K. and Karlöf., L. 2000 Snow and blue-ice distribution patterns on the coastal Antarctic ice sheet. Antarct. Sci., 12(1), 6979.
Liston, G.E. , McFadden, J.P., Sturm, M. and Pielke, Sr, R.A.. 2002 Modeled changes in Arctic tundra snow, energy and moisture fluxes due to increased shrubs. Global Change Biol., 8(1), 1732.
McFadden, J.P., Liston, G.E., Sturm, M., Pielke, Sr, R.A. and Chapin, III., F.S. 2001 Interactions of shrubs and snow in arctic tundra: measurements and models. IAHS Publ. 270 (Symposium at Maastricht – Soil–Vegetation–Atmosphere Transfer Schemes and Large-Scale Hydrological Models), 317325.
McKay, G.A. and Gray, D.M.. 1981 The distribution of snowcover. In Gray, D.M. and Male, D.H. eds Handbook of snow: principles, processes, management and use. Toronto, Ont., Pergamon Press Canada Ltd., 153190.
Mernild, S.H., Liston, G.E., Hasholt, B. and Knudsen., N.T. 2006 Snow distribution and melt modeling for Mittivakkat Glacier, Ammassalik Island, Southeast Greenland. J. Hydromet., 7(4), 808824.
Pohl, S., Marsh, P. and Liston, G.E.. 2006 Spatial–temporal variability in turbulent fluxes during spring snowmelt. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 38(1), 136146.
Pomeroy, J.W. and Essery, R.L.H.. 1999 Turbulent fluxes during blowing snow: field test of model sublimation predictions. Hydrol. Process., 13(18), 29632975.
Pomeroy, J.W. and Gray, D.M.. 1990 Saltation of snow. Water Resour. Res., 26(7), 15831594.
Pomeroy, J.W. and Li, L.. 2000 Prairie and Arctic areal snow cover mass balance using a blowing snow model. J. Geophys. Res., 105(D21), 26,61926,634.
Pomeroy, J.W. , Gray, D.M. and Landine, P.G.. 1993 The prairie blowing snow model: characteristics, validation, operation. J. Hydrol., 144(1–4), 165192.
Pomeroy, J.W. , Marsh, P. and Gray, D.M.. 1997 Application of a distributed blowing snow model to the Arctic. Hydrol. Process., 11(11), 14511464.
Pomeroy, J.W. and 6 others. 1998 An evaluation of snow accumulation and ablation processes for land surface modelling. Hydrol. Process., 12(15), 23392367.
Prasad, R., Tarboton, D.G., Liston, G.E., Luce, C.H. and Seyfried, M.S. 2001. Testing a blowing snow model against distributed snow measurements at Upper Sheep Creek, Idaho, United States of America. Water Resour. Res., 37(5), 13411356.
Purves, R.S., Barton, J.S., Mackaness, W.A. and Sugden., D.E. 1998 The development of a rule-based spatial model of wind transport and deposition of snow. Ann. Glaciol., 26, 197202.
Ryan, B.C. 1977 A mathematical model for diagnosis and prediction of surface winds in mountainous terrain. J. Appl. Meteorol., 16(6), 571584.
Schmidt, R.A. 1972 Sublimation of wind-transported snow – a model. USDA Forest Serv. Res. Pap. RM-90.
Schmidt, R.A. 1980 Threshold wind-speeds and elastic impact in snow transport. J. Glaciol., 26(94), 453467.
Seligman, G. 1936. Snow structure and ski fields. London, Macmillan & Co.
Sturm, M., Holmgren, J. and Liston, G.E.. 1995 A seasonal snow cover classification scheme for local to global applications. J. Climate, 8(5), 12611283.
Sturm, M., Liston, G.E., Benson, C.S. and Holmgren, J. 2001a. Characteristics and growth of a snowdrift in Arctic Alaska, USA. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 33(3), 319329.
Sturm, M., McFadden, J.P., Liston, G.E., Chapin, III, F.S., Racine, C.H. and Holmgren., J. 2001b. Snow–shrub interactions in Arctic tundra: a hypothesis with climatic implications. J. Climate, 14(3), 336344.
Sundsbø, P.A. 1997. Numerical modelling and simulation of snow drift. (PhD thesis, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.)
Tabler, R.D. 1975a. Estimating the transport and evaporation of blowing snow. In Symposium on Snow Management on the Great Plains (Bismarck, North Dakota, July 1975). Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska, 85105. (Great Plains Agricultural Council Publication 73.)
Tabler, R.D. 1975b. Predicting profiles of snowdrifts in topographic catchments. In Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Western Snow Conference, 23–25 April 1975. Coronado, CA, 8797.
Uematsu, T. 1993 Numerical study on snow transport and drift formation. Ann. Glaciol., 18, 135141.
Uematsu, T., Nakata, T., Takeuchi, K., Arisawa, Y. and Kaneda, Y.. 1991 Three-dimensional numerical simulation of snowdrift. Cold Reg. Sci. Technol., 20(1), 6573.
Van Lipzig, N.P.M., King, J.C., Lachlan-Cope, T. and van den Broeke., M.R. 2004 Precipitation, sublimation, and snow drift in the Antarctic Peninsula region from a regional atmospheric model. J. Geophys. Res., 109(D24), . (10.1029/2004JD004701.)
Walmsley, J.L., Troen, I.B., Lalas, D.P. and Mason., P.J. 1990 Surface-layer flow in complex terrain: Comparison of models and full-scale observations. Bound.-Lay. Meteorol., 52(3), 259281.
Winstral, A. and Marks, D.. 2002 Simulating wind fields and snow redistribution using terrain-based parameters to model snow accumulation and melt over a semi-arid mountain catchment. Hydrol. Process., 16(18), 35833603.
Winstral, A., Elder, K. and Davis, R.E.. 2002 Spatial snow modeling of wind-redistributed snow using terrain-based parameters. J. Hydromet., 3(5), 524538.
Xiao, J., Bintanja, R., Déry, S.J., Mann, G. and Taylor., P.A. 2000 An intercomparison between three models of blowing snow in the atmospheric boundary layer. Bound.-Lay. Meteorol., 97(1), 109135.
Yang, D., Kane, D., Zhang, Z., Legates, D. and Goodison, B.. 2005 Bias corrections of long-term (1973–2004) daily precipitation data over the northern regions. Geophys. Res. Lett., 32(19), . (10.1029/2005GL024057.)
Yoshino, M.M. 1975. Climate in a small area. Tokyo, University of Tokyo Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed