Evaluation of spring snow covered area depletion in the Canadian Arctic from NOAA snow charts

  • Wang L
  • Sharp M
  • Brown R
 et al. 
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weekly snow cover dataset (1966-) is the longest available record of snow cover extent (SCE) over the Northern Hemisphere (NH). This dataset has been used extensively to derive trends in continental SCE and in climate-related studies, but it has received only limited validation, particularly in high latitude areas of the NH. This study evaluated spring snow cover depletion in the NOAA dataset over a study area in the Canadian Arctic mainland north of the tree line. The evaluation used four sources of information: (1) surface snow depth and snow survey observations, (2) snow cover extent produced from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), (3) snow cover extent derived from Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I), and (4) Landsat 5 TM browse images. Six spring seasons from the period 1981-2000 with low (1984, 1988, and 1998) and high (1985, 1995, and 1997) spring snow cover extent were evaluated. The evaluation revealed that the NOAA weekly dataset consistently overestimated snow cover extent during the spring melt period, with delays of up to 4 weeks in melt onset. A number of possible reasons for this delay were investigated. The most likely causes for the delayed melt onset were frequent cloud cover in the spring melt period, and the low frequency of data coverage over higher latitudes. The results suggest that caution should be exercised when using this dataset in any studies related to the timing of snowmelt in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Canadian arctic
  • NOAA snow charts
  • Snow cover extent
  • Spring melt

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