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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #154701

Title: Comparison of snow cover energetics during spring at open and forested sites

item Marks, Daniel
item Winstral, Adam

Submitted to: Joint Assembly of the European and American Geophysical Unions
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/19/2004
Publication Date: 4/27/2004
Citation: Marks, D., Winstral A. 2004. Comparison of snow cover energetics during spring at open and forested sites. Abstract EOS Transactions, v. 85(17) supplement, American Geophysical Union, CD-ROM abstract.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Most mountainous regions are snow- dominated with little or no summer precipitation. In mountainous regions 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 regions of these catchments can sustain forest development, while others have only limited vegetation cover. Snow is scoured from exposed areas and deposed in either large drifts that develop in the lee of exposed ridges, or in forested areas that develop just below the drift zones. Forest structure alters energetics by reducing wind, increasing shading and cooling the snow surface. In general in mountain catchments, forested areas catch and store more snow than open or exposed areas, shade and protect that snow from solar and sensible energy, and delay snowmelt to late spring or even early summer, providing moisture for further forest development. Open, exposed areas of mountain catchments receive less snow, and that snow melts earlier than forested areas. Once a forest stand is established in a mountain catchment, the symbiotic relationship between the forest and snow deposition allows sustained forest growth. This relationship is, however, very sensitive to minor changes in climate conditions. Small changes in precipitation and temperature can alter the delivery of water to the system. To better manage forest and water resources in mountain regions, it is important to understand the coupling between forest structure, climate, and snowcover.