Articles | Volume 10, issue 11
Research article
22 Nov 2013
Research article |  | 22 Nov 2013

Pan-Arctic linkages between snow accumulation and growing-season air temperature, soil moisture and vegetation

K. A. Luus, Y. Gel, J. C. Lin, R. E. J. Kelly, and C. R. Duguay

Abstract. Arctic field studies have indicated that the air temperature, soil moisture and vegetation at a site influence the quantity of snow accumulated, and that snow accumulation can alter growing-season soil moisture and vegetation. Climate change is predicted to bring about warmer air temperatures, greater snow accumulation and northward movements of the shrub and tree lines. Understanding the responses of northern environments to changes in snow and growing-season land surface characteristics requires: (1) insights into the present-day linkages between snow and growing-season land surface characteristics; and (2) the ability to continue to monitor these associations over time across the vast pan-Arctic. The objective of this study was therefore to examine the pan-Arctic (north of 60° N) linkages between two temporally distinct data products created from AMSR-E satellite passive microwave observations: GlobSnow snow water equivalent (SWE), and NTSG growing-season AMSR-E Land Parameters (air temperature, soil moisture and vegetation transmissivity). Due to the complex and interconnected nature of processes determining snow and growing-season land surface characteristics, these associations were analyzed using the modern nonparametric technique of alternating conditional expectations (ACE), as this approach does not impose a predefined analytic form. Findings indicate that regions with lower vegetation transmissivity (more biomass) at the start and end of the growing season tend to accumulate less snow at the start and end of the snow season, possibly due to interception and sublimation. Warmer air temperatures at the start and end of the growing season were associated with diminished snow accumulation at the start and end of the snow season. High latitude sites with warmer mean annual growing-season temperatures tended to accumulate more snow, probably due to the greater availability of water vapor for snow season precipitation at warmer locations. Regions with drier soils preceding snow onset tended to accumulate greater quantities of snow, likely because drier soils freeze faster and more thoroughly than wetter soils. Understanding and continuing to monitor these linkages at the regional scale using the ACE approach can allow insights to be gained into the complex response of Arctic ecosystems to climate-driven shifts in air temperature, vegetation, soil moisture and snow accumulation.

Final-revised paper