The Cryosphere Discuss., 7, 2943-2977, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Review Status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in TC.
What drives basin scale spatial variability of snow water equivalent during two extreme years?
G. A. Sexstone and S. R. Fassnacht
ESS-Watershed Science Program, Warner College of Natural Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1476, USA

Abstract. This study uses a combination of field measurements and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) operational snow data to understand the drivers of snow water equivalent (SWE) spatial variability at the basin scale. Historic snow course snowpack density observations were analyzed within a multiple linear regression snow density model to estimate SWE directly from snow depth measurements. Snow surveys were completed on or about 1 April 2011 and 2012 and combined with NRCS operational measurements to investigate the spatial variability of SWE. Bivariate relations and multiple linear regression models were developed to understand the relation of SWE with terrain and canopy variables (derived using a geographic information system (GIS)). Calculation of SWE directly from snow depth measurement using the snow density model has strong statistical performance and model validation suggests the model is transferable to independent data within the bounds of the original dataset. This pathway of estimating SWE directly from snow depth measurement is useful when evaluating snowpack properties at the basin scale, where many time consuming measurements of SWE are often not feasible. During both water year (WY) 2011 and 2012, elevation and location (UTM Easting and UTM Northing) were the most important model variables, suggesting that orographic precipitation and storm track patterns are likely consistent drivers of basin scale SWE variability. Terrain characteristics, such as slope, aspect, and curvature, were also shown to be important variables, but to a lesser extent at the scale of interest.

Citation: Sexstone, G. A. and Fassnacht, S. R.: What drives basin scale spatial variability of snow water equivalent during two extreme years?, The Cryosphere Discuss., 7, 2943-2977, doi:10.5194/tcd-7-2943-2013, 2013.
Search TCD
Discussion Paper
    Final Revised Paper