Postgraduate Profiles

Shane Bilish

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Thesis: Snowmelt processes in the catchments of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme

This study aims to develop an improved understanding of the physical processes that affect the conversion of the snowpack to runoff in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. Because the main snow-covered areas are frequently close to the freezing level during winter and the snowpack is almost isothermal at 0 °C for most of the season, the snowpack here can truly be considered marginal and is highly sensitive to incremental changes in the environment. Existing snowmelt models suitable for operational use have been developed in snow climates overseas, and tend not to sufficiently represent the extreme intra- and interannual variability of the Australian snow environment.

Measurements of water and energy fluxes are being made in a small research catchment over a period of two snow seasons and the relative contributions of different environmental factors to the development and ablation of the snowpack are being investigated. The results from this catchment will be upscaled to the other catchments of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.

Why my research is important

Runoff in the Snowy Mountains underpins significant renewable energy production, water supply and irrigated agriculture within the Murray-Darling Basin. The efficient use of these water resources requires an accurate framework for the prediction of the timing and magnitude of snowmelt. This study will considerably expand the understanding of the hydrology of the Australian alpine environment.

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