Can we map hard snow layers in remote mountainous terrain for wildlife applications? Modelling and passive microwave approaches.

Authors: Christopher Cosgrove*, Oregon State University, Anne W Nolin, University of Nevada-Reno
Topics: Cryosphere, Remote Sensing, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: snow, passive microwave, wildlife, climate change, Arctic
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Seasonal snow cover plays a dominant role in northern animal species lives, covering the landscape for the majority of the year in Arctic Boreal regions (ABR). However, snow cover is a habitat subject to dynamic changes in time and space. Storms, rain-on-snow and melting events can rapidly alter snowpack properties, giving advantage to some species whilst hindering others. The economic and cultural importance of iconic ABR wildlife, and their situation in remote landscapes that are exhibiting amplified effects of climate change, has led a growth of ecological studies that interface with advances in the mapping of snowpack properties. This research focusses on Dall sheep, a large ungulate endemic to alpine Arctic North America, and examines our current ability to identify the incidence of forage-inhibiting hard snow-layers in mountainous terrain. We compare in-situ observations of snow stratigraphy in Dall sheep habitat to; (1) data from a physically-based, multi-layer snow-evolution model forced with downscaled daily meteorological data from the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2) at <500 m resolutions; and (2) data derived from the 6.25 km Calibrated Enhanced-Resolution Passive Microwave Daily EASE-Grid 2.0 Brightness Temperature Earth System Data Record (CETB) and a recent hard-layer detection algorithm developed for the Arctic. We anticipate that our results will inform efforts to overcome scaling issues when detecting snow conditions in complex topography and increase our understanding towards the role of changing snow cover in Dall sheep population decline.

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