Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2023-191
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2023-191
31 Aug 2023
 | 31 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

How does a warm and low-snow winter impact the snow cover dynamics in a humid and discontinuous boreal forest? An observational study in eastern Canada

Benjamin Bouchard, Daniel F. Nadeau, Florent Domine, François Anctil, Tobias Jonas, and Étienne Tremblay

Abstract. In the boreal forest, winter temperatures are projected to increase substantially by 2100, resulting in a reduction in snow cover thickness and duration. These changes are likely to affect hydrological processes such as snowmelt, the soil thermal regime, and snow metamorphism. The exact impact of future changes is difficult to pinpoint in the boreal forest, due to its complex structure, and the fact that snow dynamics under the canopy are very different from those in the gaps. Although the effects of warmer winters on snow-related processes are well documented, their interactions to influence the spring runoff in evergreen forest remain poorly understood. In this observational study, we assess the influence of a low-snow and warm winter on snowmelt dynamics, soil freezing, snowpack properties, and spring streamflow in a humid and discontinuous boreal catchment of eastern Canada (47.29° N, 71.17° W, 850 m ASL). We monitored the soil and snow thermal regimes and sampled physical properties of the snowpack under the canopy and in two forest gaps during an exceptionally low-snow and warm winter, plausibly representative of future winters, and during a winter with conditions close to normal. We observe that snowmelt was earlier but slower, top soil layers were cooler, and gradient metamorphism was enhanced during the low-snow and warm winter. However, we observe that snowmelt duration increased in forest gaps, that soil freezing was enhanced only under the canopy, and that snow permeability increased more strongly under the canopy than in either gap. Overall, we observe that the spring streamflow discharge was significantly reduced in the warmest year due to a slower melt and low precipitation in April and May. Our results, based solely on field observations, highlight the complex effects of warmer winters on snow hydrology in discontinuous boreal forests.

Benjamin Bouchard, Daniel F. Nadeau, Florent Domine, François Anctil, Tobias Jonas, and Étienne Tremblay

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-2023-191', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Oct 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Benjamin Bouchard, 07 Dec 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2023-191', Anonymous Referee #2, 05 Nov 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Benjamin Bouchard, 07 Dec 2023
Benjamin Bouchard, Daniel F. Nadeau, Florent Domine, François Anctil, Tobias Jonas, and Étienne Tremblay

Data sets

Dataset from "How does a warm and low-snow winter impact the snow cover dynamics in a humid and discontinuous boreal forest? An observational study in eastern Canada." Benjamin Bouchard, Daniel F. Nadeau, Florent Fomine, François Anctil, Tobias Jonas and Étienne Tremblay https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8213204

Benjamin Bouchard, Daniel F. Nadeau, Florent Domine, François Anctil, Tobias Jonas, and Étienne Tremblay

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Short summary
Observations from an exceptionally low-snow and warm winter in a boreal catchment of eastern Canada show an earlier and slower snowmelt, reduced soil temperature, stronger vertical temperature gradients in the snowpack, and a significantly lower spring streamflow. The magnitude of these effects is either amplified or reduced in regard to the complex structure of the canopy. The meteorological conditions experienced in this study may become the new norm in this region with climate change.