Are vegetation influences on Arctic–boreal snow melt rates detectable across the Northern Hemisphere?

Heather Kropp*, Michael M. Loranty, Nick Rutter, Christopher G Fletcher, Chris Derksen, Lawrence Mudryk, Markus Todt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


The timing and rate of northern high latitude spring snowmelt plays a critical role in surface albedo, hydrology, and soil carbon cycling. Ongoing changes in the abundance and distribution of trees and shrubs in tundra and boreal ecosystems can alter snowmelt via canopy impacts on surface energy partitioning. It is unclear whether vegetation-related processes observed at the ecosystem scale influence snowmelt patterns at regional or continental scales. We examined the influence of vegetation cover on snowmelt across the boreal and Arctic region across a ten-year reference period (2000–2009) using a blended snow water equivalent (SWE) data product and gridded estimates of surface temperature, tree cover, and land cover characterized by the dominant plant functional type. Snow melt rates were highest in locations with a late onset of melt, higher temperatures during the melt period, and higher maximum SWE before the onset of melt. After controlling for temperature, melt onset, and the maximum SWE, we found snow melt rates were highest in evergreen needleleaf forest, mixed boreal forest, and herbaceous tundra compared to deciduous needleleaf forest and deciduous shrub tundra. Tree canopy cover had little effect on snowmelt rate within each land cover type. While accounting for the influence of vegetative land cover type is necessary for predictive understanding of snowmelt rate variability across the Arctic–Boreal region. The relationships differed from observations at the ecosystem and catchment scales in other studies. Thus highlighting the importance of spatial scale in identifying snow-vegetation relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104010
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number10
Early online date20 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


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