Infoscience

Journal article

Spatial and temporal variability of snow depth and SWE in a small mountain catchment

The spatio-temporal variability of the mountain snow cover determines the avalanche danger, snow water storage, permafrost distribution and the local distribution of fauna and flora. Using a new type of terrestrial laser scanner (TLS), which is particularly suited for measurements of snow covered surfaces, snow depth, snow water equivalent (SWE) and melt rates have been monitored in a high alpine catchment during an ablation period. This allowed for the first time to get a high resolution (2.5 m cell size) picture of spatial variability and its temporal development. A very high variability in which maximum snow depths between 0-9 m at the end of the accumulation season was found. This variability decreased during the ablation phase, although the dominant snow deposition features remained intact. The spatial patterns of calculated SWE were found to be similar to snow depth. Average daily melt rate was between 15 mm/d at the beginning of the ablation period and 30 mm/d at the end. The spatial variation of melt rates increased during the ablation rate and could not be explained in a simple manner by geographical or meteorological parameters, which suggests significant lateral energy fluxes contributing to observed melt. It could be qualitatively shown that the effect of the lateral energy transport must increase as the fraction of snow free surfaces increases during the ablation period.

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