Estimating snowpacks in a dynamic prairie environment

TitleEstimating snowpacks in a dynamic prairie environment
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2000
AuthorsSteppuhn, H.
Conference Name68th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 68th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 2000
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationPort Angeles, Washington
KeywordsMeasurement techniques, Snow covered area, Snow measurements, Statistics

The Northern Great Plains and the Canadian Prairies cover a vast area east of the North American Rocky Mountains. The climates of these plains and prairies exemplify the classic mountain rain-shadows at mid-Iatitudes with two dominant seasons: winter, and summer. Snow can blanket these lands at any time from September through June. The snowfall can accumulate on the ground forming snowpacks which vary widely in magnitude, areal coverage, and persistence from location to location and from year to year.Widely varying snowpack depths (d), water equivalents (WE), and areal covers (A) typify cold, windy, prairie environments on the North American plains and prairies. The wide range in seasonal snowpack accumulations stems from the region's size and dynamic weather. Extremes are expected almost every year but typically occur in different locations. Although accurate estimates of snowpack d, WE, and A serve for effective resource management, they are often difficult to obtain. A technique, based on stratification according to terrain and vegetation, utilizes precipitation gauge accumulations to estimate mean snowcover WE-values as the season progresses. Gauge accumulations are adjusted for evaporation and meltwater releases by incorporating com mon meteorological station measurements. A model of the technique applied to data from Saskatchewan, improved R2 values from 0.40 to 0.76 for regressions of precipitation gauge WEs with areal mean WEs measured in field snow surveys.