In situ snow water equivalent observations in the US Arctic

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This paper summarizes 12 years of snow water equivalent (SWE) observations collected in the data-sparse region of Arctic Alaska, United States. The in situ observations are distributed across a 200 × 300 km domain that includes the Kuparuk River watershed from the Brooks Range to the Beaufort Sea coast. Data collection methods and analyses were classified to distinguish between snow observation sites representing regional- and local-scale variability. Average SWE for the entire domain ranges from 92 mm in 2008 to 148 mm in 2011. Regional end-of-winter SWE indicates that both the extreme high SWE in 2009 and 2011 and the extreme low SWE in 2008 occurred during recent and alternating years, suggesting the limitations of 12 years of data for detecting SWE trends. By assimilating the observational datasets into SnowModel, hourly 100 m gridded SWE distributions for the central Alaska Arctic were created to provide a best-fit to the observations where and when they occur. The model simulations highlight how observed SWE data can be used as a surrogate for the more problematic winter precipitation measurements. The resulting SWE distributions are readily available to support ecological and hydrologic studies in this region.

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