Revealing day-to-day evolution of snowpack and snow drought conditions with phase diagrams

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Benjamin Hatchett , Daniel McEvoy


Snow droughts commonly are defined as below average snowpack at a point in time, typically 1 April. This definition is valuable for interpreting the state of the snowpack for resource management but obscures the temporal evolution of snow drought. Borrowing from dynamical systems theory, we applied phase diagrams to visually examine the evolution of ephemeral snowpack conditions in maritime, intermountain, and continental snow climates in the western United States using station observations. Phase diagrams of snow water equivalent and precipitation highlighted snow drought onset and termination timing at daily timescales. This visualization approach may facilitate communicating snow drought conditions to broader audiences, especially in years characterized by notable hydroclimate variability or extreme events. When combined with additional hydrologic data, such as streamflow or spatially distributed estimates of snow water equivalent, phase diagrams can help monitor snow drought conditions and link them to impacts on ecosystems, water resources, and recreation.



Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Hydrology, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


drought, extremes, hydroclimate, seasonal snow, snow, water resources


Published: 2020-07-22 06:11

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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