21 Mar 2022
21 Mar 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Snow Persistence Explains Stream High Flow and Low Flow Signatures with Differing Relationships by Aridity and Climatic Seasonality

Edward Le1, Ali Ameli1, Joseph Janssen1, and John Hammond2,a Edward Le et al.
  • 1Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States
  • anow at: U.S. Geological Survey, MD-DE-DC Water Science Center, Baltimore, MD, United States

Abstract. Snow persistence is a globally available metric of snow cover duration that has, thus far, seen limited application to the field of hydrology. This study attempts to explore the controls that snow persistence exerts on streamflow at low and high flow conditions across a diverse spectrum of climatic aridity and seasonality in the United States and Canada. We statistically analyze how snow persistence, aridity, and seasonality conditions interact to control and explain streamflow shape and flashiness at low and high flows. For low flow condition, regardless of climatic aridity and seasonality, a larger snow persistence increases baseflow, reduces low flow variability, and increases the magnitude of extreme low flow relative to average flow. Our results further show that snow persistence becomes a stronger factor in controlling baseflow as well as the magnitude of extreme low flow relative to average flow, in regions with a relatively high aridity and/or with summer-dominant precipitation regimes (or in-phase seasonality). On the other hand, in catchments that are moderately wet to very arid with winter-dominant precipitation regimes (or out-of-phase seasonality), a longer snow persistence could typically lead to a more variability at high flow and a larger magnitude of extreme high flow relative to average flow. This study concludes by demonstrating the relevancy of snow persistence as a globally available streamflow behaviour descriptor and by demonstrating the impacts that climate change may have on snow persistence and ultimately on streamflow behaviour at low and high flows.

Edward Le et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-106', Anonymous Referee #1, 19 Apr 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2022-106', Anonymous Referee #2, 27 Apr 2022

Edward Le et al.


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Short summary
We used a statistical method to analyze whether snow persistence, defined as the duration of time that snow remains on the ground, explains the variability of streamflow at low and high flow conditions. Results show that as persistence of snow increases, the magnitude of low flow increases and the variability of low flow decreases, regardless of climatic aridity and seasonality. Snow persistence affects stream high flow variability at a narrow range of climatic aridity and seasonality.