The World of Arctic Snow

2014 Spring Cyberseminar Series

Matthew Sturm / University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Talk Description:

Snow covers the Arctic tundra and sea ice for 7 to 10 months of the year, a combined area of about 18 million square kilometers.  These two snow packs, one terrestrial, one marine, are surprisingly similar. Both are thin, and both consist of coarse depth hoar (below) and fine-grained wind slab (above). Both also are a source for melt water. On land, snowmelt supplies as much as 80% of the annual run-off of many rivers and streams. This freshet carries with it a huge flux of carbon and other dissolved chemicals. The snowmelt also plays a critical role in groundwater recharge. On the sea ice, the snowmelt creates ponds that have significantly lower albedo than the ice, thereby affecting the rate of melt of the ice. Unlike snow in more southerly locations, the Arctic snow also plays a major role in hydrologic system through its thermal control on the active layer and state of the permafrost.  With Arctic spring coming earlier and earlier, hydrologists should understand this unique snow cover and how it is changing.

CUAHSI’s Spring 2014 Cyberseminar Series on Snow Hydrology!

Hosted by Jessica Lundquist, University of Washington and Chris Hiemstra, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL)