Implications of spatial distributions of snow mass and melt rate for snow-cover depletion: observations in a subarctic mountain catchment

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Spatial statistics of snow water equivalent (SWE) and melt rate were measured using spatially distributed, sequential ground surveys of depth and density in forested, shrub and alpine tundra environments over several seasons within a 185 km2 mountain catchment inYukonTerritory, Canada. When stratified by slope/aspect sub-units within landscape classes, SWE frequency distributions matched the log-normal, but multiclass surveys showed a more bimodal distribution. Within-class variability of winter SWE could be grouped into (i) windswept tundra and (ii) sheltered tundra/forest regimes. During melt, there was little association between the standard deviation and mean of SWE. At small scales, a negative correlation developed between spatial distributions of pre-melt SWE and melt rate where shrubs were exposed above the snow. This was not evident in dense-forest, alpine-tundra or deep-snowdrift landscape classes. At medium scales, negative SWE and melt-rate correlations were also found between mean values from adjacent slope sub-units of the tundra landscape class. The medium-scale correlation was likely due to slope effects on insolation and blowing-snow redistribution. At the catchment scale, the correlation between mean SWE and melt rate from various landscape classes reversed to a positive one, likely influenced by intercepted and blowing regimes, shrub exposure during melt and adiabatic cooling with elevation rise. Covariance at the catchment scale resulted in a 40% acceleration of snow depletion. These results suggest that the spatial variability and covariability of both SWE and melt rate are scale- and landscape-classspecific and need to be considered in a landscape-stratified manner at the appropriate scale when snow depletion is described and the snowmelt duration predicted.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2004

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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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