Snow cover variability across central Canada (1978-2002) derived from satellite passive microwave data

Michael A. Wulder, Trisalyn A. Nelson, Chris Derksen, David Seemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Twenty-four winter seasons (1978-2002) of mean February snow water equivalent (SWE) values were analyzed in an exploration of the spatial pattern of temporal variability in snow cover across the non-mountainous interior of Canada. The SWE data were derived from space-borne passive microwave brightness temperatures processed with a land cover-sensitive suite of algorithms. Spatial patterns in the frequency and amount of variability were investigated on an annual basis through comparisons with average trends over all 24 years. Changes in temporal variability through time were also investigated by comparing three eight year time periods to general trends. Analyses were synthesized at the ecozone scale in order to link results both to potential land cover influences on algorithm performance and climatological variability in SWE. Prairie and northern ecozones were typically found to be the most variable in terms of SWE magnitude. Analyses indicate that non-treed land cover classes are generally more variable than treed classes. The results also indicate that extreme weather events appear to be occurring with increasing consistency in the Prairie and Arctic regions. Discerning climatologically significant variability in the time series, compared to algorithm-related issues can be a challenge, but in an era of eroding surface observing networks the passive microwave time series represents an important resource for monitoring and detecting trends and variability in terrestrial snow cover.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-130
Number of pages18
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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