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Net Snowpack Accumulation and Ablation Characteristics in the Inland Temperate Rainforest of the Upper Fraser River Basin, Canada

1
Environmental Science and Engineering Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC V2N 4Z9, Canada
2
Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC V2N 4Z9, Canada
3
Ecosystem Science and Management Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC V2N 4Z9, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Hydrology 2014, 1(1), 1-19; https://doi.org/10.3390/hydrology1010001
Received: 7 December 2013 / Revised: 19 March 2014 / Accepted: 3 April 2014 / Published: 28 May 2014
This study examines the net snow accumulation and ablation characteristics and trends in the Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR) of the Upper Fraser River Basin, British Columbia (BC), Canada. It intends to establish whether elevation and/or air temperature play(s) a dominant role in hydrological year peak snow water equivalent (SWE) and whether regional patterns emerge in the interannual variability in peak accumulation. To that end, SWE and air temperature data from seven snow pillow sites in the Upper Fraser River Basin at elevations ranging from 1118 to 1847 m above sea level are analyzed to infer snowpack characteristics and trends for hydrological years 1969–2012, with 2005–2012 being the actual period of data overlap. Average peak SWE ranges from 391.3 mm at Barkerville, BC on 16 April to 924.4 mm at Hedrick Lake, BC on 27 April. Snow cover duration lasts 206–258 days, with snow onset dates from mid-October to early November and snow off dates from late May to early July. Statistically-significant (p ≤ 0.05) cross correlations exist between peak SWE at nearly all sites, indicating regional coherence in seasonal synoptic activity across the study area. However, the lack of relationships between peak SWE and elevation as well as air temperature parameters indicate that mesoscale to local processes lead to distinct snow accumulation and ablation patterns at each site. Four sites with the longest records exhibit no trend in peak SWE values between 1990 and 2012. Changes to snowpack regimes may pose a threat to the productivity and immense biodiversity supported by the ancient western red cedar and hemlock stands growing in the wet toe slopes of the ITR. Thus, it is imperative that continued monitoring of snowpack conditions remains a top priority in the Upper Fraser River Basin, allowing for a better understanding of ecosystem changes in a warming climate. View Full-Text
Keywords: snowpack; snow accumulation; snow ablation; Inland Temperate Rainforest; climate change; ecohydrology; Upper Fraser River Basin; British Columbia snowpack; snow accumulation; snow ablation; Inland Temperate Rainforest; climate change; ecohydrology; Upper Fraser River Basin; British Columbia
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Déry, S.J.; Knudsvig, H.K.; Hernández-Henríquez, M.A.; Coxson, D.S. Net Snowpack Accumulation and Ablation Characteristics in the Inland Temperate Rainforest of the Upper Fraser River Basin, Canada. Hydrology 2014, 1, 1-19.

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