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Estimating snow water equivalent using snow depth and climate classes

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Author(s): Matthew Sturm, Brian Taras, Glenn E. Liston, Chris Derksen, Tobias Jonas, Jon Lea

Document Type:
Publisher: Journal of Hydrometerology
Published Year: 2010
Volume: 11
Pages: 1380 to 1394
DOI Identifier: 10.1175/2010JHM1202.1
ISBN Identifier:
Keywords: Snow climate classification regimes

In many practical applications snow depth is known, but snow water equivalent (SWE) is needed as well. Measuring SWE takes ∼20 times as long as measuring depth, which in part is why depth measurements outnumber SWE measurements worldwide. Here a method of estimating snow bulk density is presented and then used to convert snow depth to SWE. The method is grounded in the fact that depth varies over a range that is many times greater than that of bulk density. Consequently, estimates derived from measured depths and modeled densities generally fall close to measured values of SWE. Knowledge of snow climate classes is used to improve the accuracy of the estimation procedure. A statistical model based on a Bayesian analysis of a set of 25 688 depth–density–SWE data collected in the United States, Canada, and Switzerland takes snow depth, day of the year, and the climate class of snow at a selected location from which it produces a local bulk density estimate. When converted to SWE and tested against two continental-scale datasets, 90% of the computed SWE values fell within ±8 cm of the measured values, with most estimates falling much closer.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Sturm and others (2010) or (Sturm et al., 2010)

References Citation:
Sturm, M., B. Taras, G.E. Liston, C. Derksen, T. Jonas, and J. Lea, 2010, Estimating snow water equivalent using snow depth and climate classes: Journal of Hydrometerology, Vol. 11, pp. 1380-1394, doi: 10.1175/2010JHM1202.1.