WERC research assistant Joel Homan will present information from a paper, published with Douglas L. Kane of WERC and Matthew Sturm of the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) that examines snow distribution patterns in the Arctic at the watershed scale.
Arctic Snow Distribution Patterns at the Watershed Scale
Watershed scale hydrologic models require good estimates of the spatially distributed snowpack at winter’s end. Snow on the ground in treeless Arctic environments is susceptible to significant wind redistribution, which results in heterogeneous snowpacks, with greater quantities of snow collection in depressions, valley bottoms and leeward sides of ridges.
In the Arctic, precipitation and snow gauges are very poor indicators of the actual snowpack distribution. Snow distribution patterns are similar from year to year because they are largely controlled by the interaction of topography, vegetation and consistent weather patterns. From one year to the next, none of these controls radically change. Consequently, shallow and deep areas of snow tend to be spatially predetermined, resulting in depth (or SWE) differences that may vary as a whole, but not relative to each other, from year to year.
Researchers intend to identify snowpack distribution patterns and establish their stability in time and space at a watershed scale in the Arctic. Snow patterns are intended to be established by (1) numerous field survey points from end of winter field campaigns and (2) through the relationship between the snow and more easily established replacement patterns like topography. The integration of these pattern identification methods will produce a hybrid approach to identifying snowpack distribution patterns. Improvement in our estimates of the snowpack distribution will aid in the forecasting of snowmelt runoff events, which are the most significant hydrologic events of the year for larger Arctic watersheds.
Provided by Joel Homan
This image reveals the ratio of the average snow or Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) in the Kuparuk Basin of Alaska in 2008.
Friday Seminar Series
- What: Arctic Snow Distribution Patterns at the Watershed Scale
- Who: Presenter Joel Homan
- When: 3:30-4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28
- Where: 531 Duckering
Seminar schedule in PDF