In this study, the snow physics of a distributed biosphere hydrological model, referred to as the Water and Energy Budget based Distributed Hydrological Model (WEB-DHM) is significantly improved by incorporating the three-layer physically based energy balance snowmelt model of Simplified Simple Biosphere 3 (SSiB3) and the Biosphere-Atmosphere Transfer Scheme (BATS) albedo scheme. WEB-DHM with improved snow physics is hereafter termed WEB-DHM-S. Since the in-situ observations of spatially-distributed snow variables with high resolution are currently not available over large regions, the new distributed system (WEB-DHM-S) is at first rigorously tested with comprehensive point measurements. The stations used for evaluation comprise the four open sites of the Snow Model Intercomparison Project (SnowMIP) phase 1 with different climate characteristics (Col de Porte in France, Weissfluhjoch in Switzerland, Goose Bay in Canada and Sleepers River in USA) and one open/forest site of the SnowMIP phase 2 (Hitsujigaoka in Japan). The comparisons of the snow depth, snow water equivalent, surface temperature, snow albedo and snowmelt runoff at the SnowMIP1 sites reveal that WEB-DHM-S, in general, is capable of simulating the internal snow process better than the original WEB-DHM. Sensitivity tests (through incremental addition of model processes) are performed to illustrate the necessity of improvements over WEB-DHM and indicate that both the 3-layer snow module and the new albedo scheme are essential. The canopy effects on snow processes are studied at the Hitsujigaoka site of the SnowMIP2 showing that the snow holding capacity of the canopy plays a vital role in simulating the snow depth on ground. Through these point evaluations and sensitivity studies, WEB-DHM-S has demonstrated the potential to address basin-scale snow processes (e.g., the snowmelt runoff), since it inherits the distributed hydrological framework from the WEB-DHM (e.g., the slope-driven runoff generation with a grid-hillslope scheme, and the flow routing in the river network).
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