Spatial-temporal patterns of snow cover in western Canada

Carson J.Q. Farmer, Trisalyn A. Nelson, Mike A. Wulder, Chris Derksen

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

5 Scopus citations


Snow cover is often measured as snow-water equivalent (SWE), which refers to the amount of water stored in a snow pack that would be available upon melting. Snow cover and SWE represent a source of local snow-melt release, and are sensitive to regional and global atmospheric circulation, and changes in climate. Monitoring SWE using satellite-based passive microwave radiometry has provided nearly three decades of continuous data for North America. The availability of spatially and temporally extensive SWE data enables a better understanding of the nature of space-time trends in snow cover, changes in these trends and linking these trends to underlying landscape and terrain characteristics. To address these interests, we quantify the spatial pattern of SWE by applying a local measure of spatial autocorrelation to 25 years of mean February SWE derived from passive microwave retrievals. Using a method for characterizing the temporal trends in the spatial pattern of SWE, temporal trends and variability in spatial autocorrelation are quantified. Results indicate that within the Canadian Prairies, extreme values of SWE are becoming more spatially coherent, with potential impacts on water availability, and hazards such as flooding. These results also highlight the need for Canadian ecological management units that consider winter conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages15
Specialist publicationCanadian Geographer
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate variability
  • Regionalization
  • Snow water equivalence (SWE)
  • Spatial-temporal pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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