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Estimating Snow Mass and Peak River Flows for the Mackenzie River Basin Using GRACE Satellite Observations

Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0E4, Canada
Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0E4, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Qiusheng Wu, Charles Lane, Melanie Vanderhoof, Chunqiao Song, Xiaofeng Li and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Remote Sens. 2017, 9(3), 256;
Received: 1 December 2016 / Revised: 5 March 2017 / Accepted: 9 March 2017 / Published: 10 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Climate Change and Water Resources)
PDF [2410 KB, uploaded 10 March 2017]


Flooding is projected to increase with climate change in many parts of the world. Floods in cold regions are commonly a result of snowmelt during the spring break-up. The peak river flow (Qpeak) for the Mackenzie River, located in northwest Canada, is modelled using the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite observations. Compared with the observed Qpeak at a downstream hydrometric station, the model results have a correlation coefficient of 0.83 (p < 0.001) and a mean absolute error of 6.5% of the mean observed value of 28,400 m3·s−1 for the 12 study years (2003–2014). The results are compared with those for other basins to examine the difference in the major factors controlling the Qpeak. It was found that the temperature variations in the snowmelt season are the principal driver for the Qpeak in the Mackenzie River. In contrast, the variations in snow accumulation play a more important role in the Qpeak for warmer southern basins in Canada. The study provides a GRACE-based approach for basin-scale snow mass estimation, which is largely independent of in situ observations and eliminates the limitations and uncertainties with traditional snow measurements. Snow mass estimated from the GRACE data was about 20% higher than that from the Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) datasets. The model is relatively simple and only needs GRACE and temperature data for flood forecasting. It can be readily applied to other cold region basins, and could be particularly useful for regions with minimal data. View Full-Text
Keywords: flood; GRACE satellites; snow; river flow; cold region; Mackenzie River basin; model flood; GRACE satellites; snow; river flow; cold region; Mackenzie River basin; model

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Wang, S.; Zhou, F.; Russell, H.A.J. Estimating Snow Mass and Peak River Flows for the Mackenzie River Basin Using GRACE Satellite Observations. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 256.

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