Northern Great Plains 1996/97 seasonal evolution of snowpack parameters from satellite passive-microwave measurements

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For the American northern Great Plains region, the 1996/97 snow season had snow accumulations much greater than normal, which combined with rapid warming to produce extensive flooding in the Red River of the North river basin. Passive-microwave observations from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) are used to follow the evolution of the snowpack during the snow season and to map the extent of standing water or very saturated soils during spring 1997. SSM/I-derived snow-depth algorithms that assume a fixed snow grain-size constantly underestimated the snow depth by a factor of 2 in the region where extensive flooding occurred. An estimate of the thermal gradient through the snowpack is used to model the growth of the snow grain-size and to compute more accurately the evolution of the snow depth over the region. As is commonly observed, when the melt season begins, liquid water in the snowpack causes the SSM/I spectral gradient to drop to zero. In this case, the spectral gradient fell to unusually negative values, which were indicative of large areas of open water, and not wet snow or soil.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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