Item: Seasonal snowcover in the foothills of alaska's arctic slope
Title: Seasonal snowcover in the foothills of alaska's arctic slope
Proceedings: 1990 International Snow Science Workshop, Bigfork, Montana USA, October 9-13
Authors: Glen E. Liston
Abstract: Snowcover is a dominant feature of Alaska's Arctic Slope for nine months of each year. During 1984-85, a research program was conducted in the headwaters of the Too1ik River in the foothills of the Aratic Slope. Observation of meteorological and snowpack characteristics during the winter and spring allowed description of the snowcover's seasonal evolution. This study comprises the most comprehensive and long term snow study to date in Arctic Alaska. The snowcover of this area was strongly redistributed by southerly winds, in contrast to the predominantly east-west winds occurring in the coastal regions of the Arctic Slope. Snow water equivalent depths ranged from a to 150 em, with a mean depth of 10.3 em. Snow accumulations on lee slopes of 2 to 3 degrees were 65 percent greater than those on windward slopes of similar angle. This distribution is in contrast to current models predicting profiles of snowdrifts in topographic catchments which predict that the minimum lee slope initiating drift development is about 10 degrees. In the Arctic, the snowmelt period is the most significant hydrological event of the year. In 1985, melting began on 14 May, and by 31 May, ninety-eight percent of the total snow volume for the site had been melted. The rate of exposure of tundra varies greatly as snowmelt progresses. In this study, a 55 percent decrease in snowcover occurred over a period of only 3 days. This rapid decrease in snowcover is shown to be due to the presence of large areal distributions of uniformly thick snow.
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Keywords: snowcover, slope, wind, melting
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