Snow Cover Variations and Controlling Factors at Upper Heihe River Basin, Northwestern China




Bi, Yunbo
Xie, Hongjie
Huang, Chunlin
Ke, Changqing

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Snow is an important water resource and greatly influences water availability in the downstream areas. In this study, snow cover variations of the Upper Heihe River Basin (UHRB) during hydrological years (HY) 2003–2013 (September through August) is examined using the flexible multiday-combined MODIS snow cover products. Spatial distribution and pattern of snow cover from year to year for the basin is found to be relatively stable, with maximum snow cover area (SCA) and snow cover days occurring in HY2004, HY2008 and HY2012. A method, based on correlation coefficients between SCA and climate factors (mainly air temperature and precipitation), is presented to identify the threshold altitude that determines contributions of climate factors to SCA. A threshold altitude of 3650 ± 150 m is found for the UHRB, where below this altitude, both air temperature (Tair) and precipitation are negative factors on SCA, except in the winter season when both are positive factors. Above the threshold altitude, precipitation acts as a positive factor except in summer, while Tair is a negative factor except in autumn. Overall, Tair is the primary controlling factor on SCA below the threshold altitude, while precipitation is the primary controlling factor on SCA above the threshold altitude.



snow cover variations, climate factors, threshold altitude, sublimation


Remote Sensing 7 (6): 6741-6762 (2015)


Earth and Planetary Sciences