Scales of snow depth variability in high elevation rangeland sagebrush
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In high elevation semi-arid rangelands, sagebrush and other shrubs can affect transport and deposition of wind-blown snow, enabling the formation of snowdrifts. Datasets from three field experiments were used to investigate the scales of spatial variability of snow depth around big mountain sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) at a high elevation plateau rangeland in North Park, Colorado, during the winters of 2002, 2003, and 2008. Data were collected at multiple resolutions (0.05 to 25 m) and extents (2 to 1000 m). Finer scale data were collected specifically for this study to examine the correlation between snow depth, sagebrush microtopography, the ground surface, and the snow surface, as well as the temporal consistency of snow depth patterns. Variograms were used to identify the spatial structure and the Moran’s I statistic was used to determine the spatial correlation. Results show some temporal consistency in snow depth at several scales. Plot scale snow depth variability is partly a function of the nature of individual shrubs, as there is some correlation between the spatial structure of snow depth and sagebrush, as well as between the ground and snow depth. The optimal sampling resolution appears to be 25-cm, but over a large area, this would require a multitude of samples, and thus a random stratified approach is recommended with a fine measurement resolution of 5-cm.
Keywordssnow hydrology high elevation rangelands spatial statistics variograms snow pack spatial variability snow drifts
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The authors thank Dr. Christopher Hiemstra for providing the 2008 CIRA dataset, all the people who helped collect the CLPX data, and all the Colorado State University students who helped collect the WSD data. Thanks are also due to aWarner College of Natural Resources mini-grant in 2007 that provided the initial funding to start this research. Discussions and a field excursion with Dr. James R. Meiman were quite useful, and we thank him for his insight.
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