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Spatial-temporal patterns of snow cover in western Canada

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Snow cover is often measured as snow-water equivalent (SWE), which refers to the amount of water stored in a snow pack that would be available upon melting. Snow cover and SWE represent a source of local snow-melt release, and are sensitive to regional and global atmospheric circulation, and changes in climate. Monitoring SWE using satellite-based passive microwave radiometry has provided nearly three decades of continuous data for North America.

The availability of spatially and temporally extensive SWE data enables a better understanding of the nature of space-time trends in snow cover, changes in these trends and linking these trends to underlying landscape and terrain characteristics. To address these interests, we quantify the spatial pattern of SWE by applying a local measure of spatial autocorrelation to 25 years of mean February SWE derived from passive microwave retrievals. Using a method for characterizing the temporal trends in the spatial pattern of SWE, temporal trends and variability in spatial autocorrelation are quantified. Results indicate that within the Canadian Prairies, extreme values of SWE are becoming more spatially coherent, with potential impacts on water availability, and hazards such as flooding. These results also highlight the need for Canadian ecological management units that consider winter conditions.
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Keywords: climate variability; profil spatio-temporel; regionalization; régionalisation; snow water equivalence (SWE); spatial-temporal pattern; variabilité climatique; équivalent en eau de la neige

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 3R4 ( ), Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 3R4 ( ), Email: [email protected] 3: Canadian Forest Service, Pacific Forestry Centre, Natural Resources Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8Z 1M5 ( ), Email: [email protected] 4: Climate Research Division, Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate, Environment Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada M3H 5T4 ( ), Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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