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Role Of Energy Budget Components On Snow Ablation From A Mid-Latitude Prairie Snowpack

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This work considers what aspects of the surface energy budget were most important for the development of rapid snow melt during the spring of 1997 in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. The rapid snow melt of an exceptionally large snowpack that season led to catastrophic flooding. We use this event as a case study in order to better understand what meteorological forcings are most important with regard to rapid melting of a large winter snowpack in a mid-latitude prairie region. The SNTHERM model was used as a means to estimate snow melt flux and energy budget components. It was found that the net radiation balance was the dominant factor in snow melt throughout the winter months until late March, but ablation rates were small due to the extremely low temperatures. As warm air masses began to traverse the region in late March, the snow melt flux began to increase significantly due to the influences of sensible and latent heat fluxes on the surface of the snowpack. After the passing of a strong late-season blizzard, temperature and humidity increased rapidly with a corresponding increase in wind speed. The sensible heat flux then dominated as temperatures rose well above freezing, melting off the snowpack extremely quickly.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-04-01

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