Effects of needleleaf forest cover on radiation and snowmelt dynamics in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

C. R. Ellis, J. W. Pomeroy, R. L. H. Essery, T. E. Link

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Radiation is the main energy source for snowpack warming and melt in mountain needleleaf forests, and runoff from these forests is the main contributor to spring river flows in western North America. Utilizing extensive field observations, the effect of needleleaf forest cover on radiation and snowmelt timing was quantified at pine and spruce forest sites and nearby clearings of varying slope and aspect in an eastern Canadian Rocky Mountain headwater basin. Compared with open clearing sites, shortwave radiation was much reduced under forest cover, resulting in smaller differences in melt timing between forested slopes relative to open slopes with different aspects. In contrast, longwave radiation to snow was substantially enhanced under forest cover, especially at the dense spruce forest sites where longwave radiation dominated total energy for snowmelt. In both pine and spruce environments, forest cover acted to substantially reduce total radiation to snow and delay snowmelt timing on south-facing slopes while increasing total radiation and advancing snowmelt timing on north-facing slopes. Results strongly suggest that impacts on radiation to snow and snowmelt timing from changes in mountain forest cover will depend much on the slope and aspect at which changes occur.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-620
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Volume41
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011

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