Yukon River streamflow response to seasonal snow cover changes

Daqing Yang, Yuanyuan Zhao, Richard Armstrong, David Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We used remotely sensed weekly snow water equivalent (SWE) and snow cover extent (SCE) data to investigate streamflow response to seasonal snowcover change over the Yukon watershed. We quantified the seasonal cycles and variations of snowcover (both SWE and SCE) and river streamflow, and identified a clear correspondence of river discharge to seasonal snowcover change. We also examined and compared the weekly mean streamflow with the weekly basin SWE and SCE. The results revealed a strong relation between the streamflow and snowcover change during the spring melt season. This relationship provides a practical procedure of using remotely sensed snowcover information for snowmelt runoff estimation over the large northern watersheds. Analyses of extreme (high/ low) streamflow cases (years) and basin snowcover conditions indicate an association of high (low) flood peak with high (low) maximum SWE. Comparative analyses of weekly basin SWE versus SCE, peak snowmelt floods, and climatic variables (temperature and winter precipitation) indicate consistency among basin SWE, SCE, and temperature, but there is some incompatibility between basin SWE and winter precipitation. The inconsistency suggests uncertainties in determination of basin winter snowfall amounts and limitations in applications of the SWE retrieval algorithm over large watersheds/regions with different physical characteristics. Overall, the results of this study demonstrate that the weekly SWE and SCE data/products derived from remote sensing technology are useful in understanding seasonal streamflow changes in the northern regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-121
Number of pages13
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


  • Remote sensing
  • Runoff and streamflow
  • Snow and ice


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