The variations in the snowpack in water towers of the world due to climate change have threatened the amount and timing of freshwater supplied downstream. However, it remains to be further investigated whether snowpack variation in water towers exhibits elevational heterogeneity at different altitude gradients and which climatic factors mainly influence these differences. Therefore, Changbai Mountain, a high-latitude water tower, was selected to analyze the changes in the snowpack by the methods of modified Mann–Kendall based on the daily meteorological data from the China Meteorological Data Service Centre. Meanwhile, the responses of snowpack change to climatic factors over recent decades were assessed and generalized using additive models. The results showed that the snow depth was greater in the higher altitude areas than in the lower elevation areas at different times. Areas with a snow depth of over 70 mm increased significantly in the 2010s. Increasing trends were shown at different altitudes from December to March of the next year during 1960~2018. However, a significant decreasing trend was shown in April, except for altitudes of 600–2378 m. The snow cover time at different altitudes showed a trend of first increasing and then decreasing during 1960~2018. The date of maximum snow depth appears to be more lagged as the altitude increases. In addition, the spring snowpack melted significantly faster in the 2010s than that in the 1960s. The snowpack variation in low-altitude regions is mainly influenced by ET and relative humidity. However, the mean temperature gradually became an important factor, affecting the snow depth variation with the increase in altitude. Therefore, the results of this study will be beneficial to the ecological protection and sustainable development of water towers.
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