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Remote Sens. 2017, 9(11), 1157; doi:10.3390/rs9111157

Remote Sensing of 2000–2016 Alpine Spring Snowline Elevation in Dall Sheep Mountain Ranges of Alaska and Western Canada

School of Natural Resources and Extension, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
Yukon Department of Environment, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 4Y9, Canada
College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
School of Environmental and Forestry Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 18 August 2017 / Revised: 6 November 2017 / Accepted: 7 November 2017 / Published: 11 November 2017
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The lowest elevation of spring snow (“snowline”) is an important factor influencing recruitment and survival of wildlife in alpine areas. In this study, we assessed the spatial and temporal variability of alpine spring snowline across major Dall sheep mountain areas in Alaska and northwestern Canada. We used a daily MODIS snow fraction product to estimate the last day of 2000–2016 spring snow for each 500-m pixel within 28 mountain areas. We then developed annual (2000–2016) regression models predicting the elevation of alpine snowline during mid-May for each mountain area. MODIS-based regression estimates were compared with estimates derived using a Normalized Difference Snow Index from Landsat-8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) surface reflectance data. We also used 2000–2009 decadal climate grids to estimate total winter precipitation and mean May temperature for each of the 28 mountain areas. Based on our MODIS regression models, the 2000–2016 mean May 15 snowline elevation ranged from 339 m in the cold arctic class to 1145 m in the interior mountain class. Spring snowline estimates from MODIS and Landsat OLI were similar, with a mean absolute error of 106 m. Spring snowline elevation was significantly related to mean May temperature and total winter precipitation. The late spring of 2013 may have impacted some sheep populations, especially in the cold arctic mountain areas which were snow-covered in mid-May, while some interior mountain areas had mid-May snowlines exceeding 1000 m elevation. We found this regional (>500,000 km2) remote sensing application useful for determining the inter-annual and regional variability of spring alpine snowline among 28 mountain areas. View Full-Text
Keywords: spring snow; alpine; Dall sheep; MODIS; MODCAG; snowline elevation; snow mapping spring snow; alpine; Dall sheep; MODIS; MODCAG; snowline elevation; snow mapping

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Verbyla, D.; Hegel, T.; Nolin, A.W.; van de Kerk, M.; Kurkowski, T.A.; Prugh, L.R. Remote Sensing of 2000–2016 Alpine Spring Snowline Elevation in Dall Sheep Mountain Ranges of Alaska and Western Canada. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 1157.

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