The Seasonal Snow Cover Dynamics: Review on Wind-Driven Coupling Processes

  • Mott R
  • Vionnet V
  • Grünewald T
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The temporal evolution of seasonal snow cover and its spatial variability in environments such as mountains, prairies or polar regions is strongly influenced by the interactions between the atmospheric boundary layer and the snow cover. Wind-driven coupling processes affect both mass and energy fluxes at the snow surface with consequences on snow hydrology, avalanche hazard and ecosystem development. This paper proposes a review on these processes and combines the more recent findings obtained from observations and modelling. The spatial variability of snow accumulation across multiple scales can be associated to wind-driven processes ranging from orographic precipitation at large scale to preferential-deposition of snowfall and wind-induced transport of snow on the ground at smaller scales. An overview of models of varying complexity developed to simulate these processes is proposed in this paper. Snow ablation is also affected by wind-driven processes. Over continuous snow covers, turbulent fluxes of latent and sensible heat, as well as blowing snow sublimation, modify the mass and energy balance of the snowpack and their representation in numerical models is associated with many uncertainties. As soon as the snow cover becomes patchy in spring local heat advection induces the developement of stable internal boundary layers changing heat exchange towards the snow. Overall, wind-driven processes play a key role in all the different stages of the evolution of seasonal snow. Improvements in process understanding particularly at the mountain-ridge and the slope scale, and processes representations in models at scales up to the mountain range scale, will be the basis for improved short-term forecast and climate projections in snow-covered regions.




Mott, R., Vionnet, V., & Grünewald, T. (2018). The Seasonal Snow Cover Dynamics: Review on Wind-Driven Coupling Processes. Frontiers in Earth Science, 6.

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