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Implications of spatial distributions of snow mass and melt rate for snow-cover depletion: theoretical considerations

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Snow becomes patchy while melting, giving a heterogeneous surface with large contrasts in characteristics such as albedo. It is therefore necessary for surface schemes used in atmospheric and hydrological models to represent the influence of heterogeneities in snow cover on scales smaller than the model grid; this is typically done by introducing a snow-cover depletion (SCD) curve relating fractional snow cover to average depth. Here, ad hoc functional forms which have been used for this relationship are first compared with forms obtained for an assumed initial snow distribution undergoing homogeneous melt. The energy available for melt may be heterogeneous, however, and can be influenced by factors that also influence snow distribution, such as slope, aspect and vegetation cover. The modification of SCD curves by spatial variations in melt energy is investigated, and resulting curves are found to be similar to those which would be given by homogeneous melting of a snow cover with greater initial variance. This influence is increased by any negative correlation between snow depth and melt rate.

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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