Standard Article

159 Snow Cover

Part 14. Snow and Glacier Hydrology

  1. Ross D Brown1,
  2. Barry E Goodison2

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa165

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Brown, R. D. and Goodison, B. E. 2006. Snow Cover. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 14:159.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Meteorological Service of Canada, Dorval, QC, Canada

  2. 2

    Meteorological Service of Canada, Downsview, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


Snow cover is encountered over most of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) mid- and high-latitudes during the winter season and over many mountainous regions of the world for extended periods. Snow cover is an important component of the climate system through its role in modifying energy and moisture fluxes between the surface and the atmosphere, and through its role as a water store in hydrological systems. Snow also plays critical roles in ecological and biological systems, and in nutrient and carbon cycling. This article provides an introductory overview of snow cover including: definition of terms (snowfall, solid precipitation, snow depth, snow density, snow water equivalent); a review of methods for measuring snow cover properties; a discussion of the processes and concepts involved in the spatial and temporal variability of snow cover; a look at avalanches and recent efforts to model these; and finally, a discussion of how snow cover is changing in response to global warming.


  • snow;
  • snow cover;
  • snow depth;
  • snow density;
  • snow water equivalent;
  • snow measurement