Faculté des sciences

Hydrological Implications of Covering Wind-Blown Snow Accumulations with Geotextiles on Mount Aragats, Armenia

Nestler, Alexander ; Huss, Matthias ; Ambartzumian, Rouben ; Hambarian, Artak

In: Geosciences, 2014, vol. 4, no. 3, p. 73–92

Snow is an excellent water reservoir, naturally storing large quantities of water at time scales from a few days to several months. In summer-dry countries, like Armenia, runoff due to snow melt from mountain regions is highly important for a sustained water supply (irrigation, hydropower). Snow fields on Mount Aragats, Armenia’s highest peak, often persist until July, providing vital amounts... More

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    Summary
    Snow is an excellent water reservoir, naturally storing large quantities of water at time scales from a few days to several months. In summer-dry countries, like Armenia, runoff due to snow melt from mountain regions is highly important for a sustained water supply (irrigation, hydropower). Snow fields on Mount Aragats, Armenia’s highest peak, often persist until July, providing vital amounts of melt water. Artificially managing these wind-driven snow accumulations as a natural water reservoir might have considerable potential. In the context of the Swiss-Armenian joint venture, Freezwater, snow fields are covered with geotextiles in order to delay snow melt long enough to provide additional melt water in the dry season of the year. In this study, we analyze the hydrological effectiveness of the artificial management of the natural snow cover on Mount Aragats based on various field measurements acquired over a three-year period and numerical modeling. Over the winter season, partly more than five meter-thick snow deposits are formed supported by snow redistribution by strong wind. Repeated mappings of snow fields indicate that snow cover patterns remain highly consistent over time. Measurements of ablation below manually applied geotextiles show a considerable reduction of melt rates by more than 50%. Simulations with an energy-balance model and a distributed temperature-index model allow assessing the hydrological effect of artificial snow management for different initial snow depths and elevations and suggest that coverage is needed at a large scale in order to generate a significant impact on discharge.