ArcticNet - ArcticNet Research

Phase 4 (2015-2018)

The Arctic Snowcover: Sensitivity, Change, and Impacts on Terrestrial Systems, Water Resources and Communities

Project Leader(s)

Marsh, Philip

Snow is a keystone characteristic of the Arctic, with important controls on, and interactions with permafrost; lake and river ice cover; wetland and stream hydrology; and vegetation and wildlife habitat. However, a rapidly changing climate is resulting in dramatic transformations to the arctic snowcover. Although in most regions the snow season duration is decreasing, the details of these changes is quite variable. For example, in many regions the decrease is usually due to an earlier end of the snow season in the spring, in other areas the snow season is also starting earlier in the fall. This can result in a shift of the snow season, resulting in both an early start and end. Other local scale changes, including variations in snow depth and density, can directly impact human communities and wildlife, but have not been well described. As a result there is an urgent need to improve our understanding of, and ability to model, changes in snow cover properties, including the complex links between snow, vegetation, permafrost and hydrology. Such improved knowledge is essential in order to steer both public policy and the development of natural resources. Contributes to IRIS: 1