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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SNOW AND HYDROLOGIC PROCESSES IN THE INTERMOUNTAIN WEST Title: Measuring and monitoring snow deposition, properties and processes in mountain catchments of Western North America

Author
item Marks, Daniel

Submitted to: World Wide Web
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 2007
Publication Date: December 8, 2007
Citation: Marks, D.G. 2007. Measuring and monitoring snow deposition, properties and processes in mountain catchments of Western North America. Invited presenation at the North American Hydro=climate Workshop, Boulder, Colorado, October 17-19, 2007. (Presentation can be viewed at the above web site)

Technical Abstract: Patterns of snow deposition, and the distribution of snow properties and processes in mountainous regions of Western North America are highly heterogeneous. Wind and topographic structure control snow deposition, causing tremendous spatial heterogeneity in the distribution of the snowcover and the delivery of melt water across mountain catchments. This in turn leads to heterogeneity in vegetation cover where some areas within these catchments can sustain forest development, while others support only limited vegetation cover. Snow is scoured from exposed areas and deposited in either large drifts that develop in the lee of exposed ridges, or in forested areas that develop just below the drift zones. Forest and topographic structure alter energetics by reducing wind, increasing shading and slowing the melt process. Measuring and monitoring snow deposition, processes and properties in these environments are difficult and challenging. The most difficult parameter to measure in these complex, wind-dominated catchments is snow deposition. Point measurement of snow depth, mass, density, temperature, liquid water content and albedo are possible, but require training and careful attention to detail. New technology using eddy covariance is showing promise for measuring fluxes of heat and water vapor to the atmosphere. Our challenge is to extend these limited measurements across complex mountain landscapes so that we can understand how interactions between climate, weather and snowcover affect mountain water and ecosystem resources.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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