Disappearing semi-permanent snow in the High Arctic and its consequences Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • AbstractSemi-permanent snow is part of the continuum between seasonal snow and glacier ice. Although ubiquitous in the High Arctic, most late-lying snow banks and snow beds have lost their perennial status over the past decade as the summers have become progressively warmer. The loss over the past decade is the most unprecedented since aerial photography of the Canadian Arctic islands was first undertaken over half a century ago, and it has produced observable thermal, hydrological and ecological impacts. Where the ground has become exposed beneath the perennial snow cover, seasonal ground thaw has deepened. Tundra ponds and patchy wetlands fed principally by meltwater in the summer have suffered water-level decline or desiccation. The water balance of headwater basins is also affected, losing a buffering vehicle that accumulates storage surplus from the wet cool years to support streamflow and evaporation in the dry warm years. The tundra vegetation, already sparse, undergoes changes in the long term. As an essential source of water in the polar desert environment, the widespread distribution of semi-permanent snow magnifies its Arctic-wide importance.

publication date

  • 2014