Using observations from marginal snowfields to further understand variability in snowpack properties.

Bormann, K., Evans, J.P. and M.F. McCabe
AGU Fall meeting, 3-7 December 2012, San Francisco, USA.


Understanding the spatial and temporal distribution of snow properties at catchment scales is important for estimation of streamflows in snow hydrology applications. In marginal snowfields such as Australia, this is particularly relevant as snowmelt contributions to streamflows may be unknown. Marginal snowfields typically occur in warmer climates, receive small snow covers with high snow perimeter to area ratios and have a large prevalence of patchy snow cover. Due to increased vulnerability, these regions can experience high interannual and spatial variability in snow cover, timing and snowpack properties. A global scale spatial evaluation of snow properties finds that snow densities experienced in Australian snowfields often fall outside the typical range of values observed in larger international snowfields. Thus observations from less-studied snow regions may be used to further understand spatio-temporal variability in snowpack properties in a warming climate. These unique snow properties contribute to the poor performance of global satellite based snow cover products at regional scales. To examine this, the Melt Area Detection Index (MADI) is used to develop a new snow cover product that performs well over Australian (marginal) snowfields. These findings may be applicable to the regionalisation of remote sensing techniques, improvement of snow parameterisations and distributed spatial representations of water resources.

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