Water Science and Engineering 2020, 13(3) 171-180 DOI:   https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wse.2020.09.002  ISSN: 1674-2370 CN: 32-1785/TV

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Snow cover
Surface runoff
Topographic effectElevation
Tianshan Mountains

Impacts of topographic factors on regional snow cover characteristics

Muattar Saydi a, b, Jian-li Ding a, c, *

a College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Xinjiang University, Urumqi 830046, China
b School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
c Key Laboratory of Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang University, Urumqi 830046, China


At a local scale, snow cover is influenced by terrain properties, and it affects water availability across some arid and semiarid regions. This study aimed to quantify the spatial heterogeneity of snow cover due to topographic effects based on moderate-resolution image spectroradiometer (MODIS) snow cover products, processed with spatial and backward temporal filters. A snow-dominant region in the middle section of the northern Tianshan Mountains in China was selected, and the snow cover ratio (SCR) and the number of snow cover days (SCD) were investigated. The results suggest that MODIS images are biased toward underestimation of the snow cover in the study region, and the error is primarily manifested within the elevation band of 1 500–2 500 m. The snow cover is mainly affected by elevation, and snow mostly accumulates above 3 800 m. In addition, the differences in SCR and SCD between the south- and north-facing slopes are more significant than those between the east- and west-facing slopes. Notably, the north-facing slopes have the maximum values of SCR and SCD, whereas the south-facing slopes have the minimum values of SCR and SCD. Furthermore, the impact of slope gradients on snow cover varies across seasons. Snow cover on a sloped surface decreases with the slope gradient during winter, while it tends to increase with the slope gradient during the other seasons. Overall, this study presents a useful perspective on the variance in regional snow cover and provides guidance for the water resources management of snow meltwater with different terrain features.

Keywords Snow cover   Snowmelt   Surface runoff   MODIS   Topographic effectElevation   Aspect   Tianshan Mountains  
Received 2019-09-20 Revised 2020-03-30 Online: 2020-09-30 
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wse.2020.09.002

This work was supported by the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region’s Special Fund for Water Science and Technology (Grant No. 2020.B-001), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41901033), and Sun Yat-sen University’s Basic Research Fund for Young Scholars (Grant No. 19lgpy57).

Corresponding Authors: Jian-li Ding
Email: watarid@xju.edu.cn
About author:


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