16th HEPEX Webinar: Using satellite snow cover images to enhance performance of snow, glacier and rain runoff projections for hydro power usages

Speaker: David Finger

Date and time: Thursday, May 29, 2014, 15:00 GMT Summer Time (UTC +01:00)

Register: https://ecmwf.webex.com/ecmwf/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=958073775

Abstract: The quantification of snow, glacier and rainwater contribution to runoff in mountain streams is of major importance in order to anticipate adequate water management of hydropower reservoirs. While seasonal glacier melt contribution depends on general meteorological conditions during the summer months, snow cover is governed by winter precipitation and spring temperatures and direct runoff depends on rainfall patterns (e.g Crochet 2013). Besides direct field investigation such as chemical fingerprints in water samples and artificial tracer experiments (e.g. Finger et al., 2013), the contribution and prediction of snow, glacier and rain can also be estimated and predicted with hydrological models, given that the modeling accounts adequately for snow-, glacier and rainwater runoff. In this presentation we will present an overview of half a decade of research on multi-variable calibration techniques to estimate runoff composition using physically based, distributed models and conceptual lumped models. We will first present the multi variable calibration technique using satellite derived snow cover images, seasonal glacier mass balances and discharge data (Finger et al., 2011), then show how the technique can be used to identify significant impacts of climate change on hydropower production (Finger et al., 2012) and finally demonstrate how modelling technique can be used to enhance estimates of seasonal snow, glacier and rain runoff (Finger et al., 2014). Most of the study sites presented are located in Switzerland: i) Rhoneglacier (39km2; ~50% glaciation), ii) Vispervalley (778 km2; ~29% glaciation), iii) Hinterrhein (53km2; ~17% glaciation) and iv) Silvretta glacier (103km2; ~8% glaciation). Nevertheless, the modelling approach can be applied to any mountainous area in the world. Currently we are developing methods to use the presented techniques for short-term, medium-term and seasonal predictions. Our presentation will conclude with an outlook on how the hydrological predictions could be used for flood risk warnings and enhanced management of hydropower reservoirs.

Crochet, P (2013). Sensitivity of Icelandic river basins to recent climate variations. Jökull, 71-90, No. 63.
Finger, D., M. Vis and J. Seibert (2014). The value of data availability versus model complexity to estimate snow, glacier and rain water in mountain streams. EGU General Assembly 2014. http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2014/EGU2014-1122.pdf
Finger, D., A. Hugentobler, M. Huss, A. Voinesco, H.R. Wernli, D. Fischer, E. Weber, P-Y. Jeannin, M. Kauzlaric, A. Wirz, T. Vennemann, F. Hüsler, B. Schädler, and R. Weingartner (2013). Identification of glacial melt water runoff in a karstic environment and its implication for present and future water availability. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss. 10, 1-45, doi: 10.5194/hessd-10-1-2013.
Finger, D., Heinrich, G., Gobiet, A., and Bauder, A.: Projections of future water resources and their uncertainty in a glacierized catchment in the Swiss Alps and the subsequent effects on hydropower production during the 21st century, Water Resources Research, 48, doi: 10.1029/2011wr010733, W02521, 2012.
Finger, D., Pellicciotti, F., Konz, M., Rimkus, S., and Burlando, P.: The value of glacier mass balance, satellite snow cover images, and hourly discharge for improving the performance of a physically based distributed hydrological model, Water Resources Research, 47, doi: W07519, 10.1029/2010wr009824, 2011.

David Finger

David Finger



  1. Thanks David for an excellent seminar! for those of you who missed it, here is a chance to catch up with it and all the other HEPEX Webinars: https://www.youtube.com/user/HEPEXWebinars

  2. David, I really enjoyed your seminar and I can recommend the youtube video

  3. Many thanks Fredrik and Florian. It was my first webinar and it was a great experience. We are still in the process of developing the forecasting technologies but we are looking forward to further discussions and hopefully we can present some updates in the near future.
    Best, David

  4. Our study on “The value of multiple dataset calibration versus model complexity for improving the performance of hydrological models in mountain catchments” is now online:

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