Maximum snowmelt rates: some observations

TitleMaximum snowmelt rates: some observations
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference1998
AuthorsKattelmann, R. C., Cooley K. R., and Palmer P. L.
Conference Name66th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 66th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 1998
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationSnowbird, Utah
KeywordsSNOTEL, Snowmelt

In response to discussion and debate about how fast snow can melt under extreme conditions, this paper identifies and interprets some reported observations of rapid snowmelt rates. Energy availability suggests that maximum snowmelt under typical conditions in the mountains of North America is about 50 mm per day. Conditions that enhance snowmelt rates include long day-length near the summer solstice, clear skies during daytime combined with cloud cover at night, warm and humid air combined with high wind speeds, particulate matter in the near-surface snow layer, and discontinuous snow cover that is thin enough for sunlight to penetrate to the ground surface. Records of snowmelt rates from four research sites and more than ninety SNOTEL sites provide the observational basis to discuss empirical estimates of maximum melt water generation.