Parameterizations of Snow Cover, Snow Albedo and Snow Density in Land Surface Models: A Comparative Review

Won Young Lee, Hyeon Ju Gim, Seon Ki Park

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Snow plays a vital role in the interaction between land and atmosphere in the state-of-the-art land surface models (LSMs) and the real world. While snow plays a crucial role as a boundary condition in meteorological applications and serves as a vital water resource in certain regions, the acquisition of its observational data poses significant challenges. An effective alternative lies in utilizing simulation data generated by Land Surface Models (LSMs), which accurately calculate the snow-related physical processes. The LSMs show significant differences in the complexities of the snow parameterizations in terms of variables and processes considered. In this regard, the synthetic intercomparisons of the snow physics in the LSMs can give insight for further improvement of each LSM. This study revealed and discussed the differences in the parameterizations among LSMs related to snow cover fraction, albedo, and snow density. We selected the most popular and well-documented LSMs embedded in the earth system models or operational forecasting systems. We examined single-layer schemes, including the Unified Noah Land Surface Model (Noah LSM), the Hydrology Tiled ECMWF Scheme of Surface Exchanges over Land (HTESSEL), the Biosphere-Atmosphere Transfer Scheme (BATS), the Canadian Land Surface Scheme (CLASS), the University of Torino land surface Process Interaction model in Atmosphere (UTOPIA), and multilayer schemes of intermediate complexity including the Community Noah Land Surface Model with Multi-Parameterization Options (Noah-MP), the Community Land Model version 5 (CLM5), the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES), and the Interaction Soil-Biosphere-Atmosphere (ISBA). Through the comparison analysis, we emphasized that inclusion of geomorphic and vegetation-related variables such as elevation, slope, time-varying roughness length, and vegetation indexes as well as optimized parameters for specific regions, in the snow-related physical processes, are crucial for further improvement of the LSMs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-210
Number of pages26
JournalAsia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2024

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© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Land surface model
  • Parameterization
  • Snow albedo
  • Snow cover
  • Snow density


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