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162 Hydrology of Snowcovered Basins

Part 14. Snow and Glacier Hydrology

  1. Bruce Davison,
  2. Alain Pietroniro

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa168

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Davison, B. and Pietroniro, A. 2006. Hydrology of Snowcovered Basins. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 14:162.

Author Information

  1. Environment Canada, National Hydrology Research Centre, National Water Research Institute, Saskatoon, SK, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


Snowcovered catchments are an integral part of the earth's physical, chemical, and biological regulatory processes. Catchment-based assessments of snow are typically derived from snow surveys and snow courses. Remote sensing is also a valuable tool for use in understanding the nature and distribution of snowcover in a catchment. Snowcovered basin classifications are founded on the source and timing of runoff and the characteristics of the snow. In order to understand the hydrology of snowcovered catchments, it is important to understand the physics of snowmelt and other related phenomena, such as canopy effects that influence the temporal and spatial distribution of snow within a catchment, including both the energy and mass balance components. Operational temperature index models for basin snowmelt and statistical models for horizontal snowcover distribution help approximate some of the physical processes that are not (or cannot be) directly measured. Hydrological models are an attempt to articulate an understanding of the complex and nonlinear interactions within the hydrological cycle using a rational mathematical approach such as an index method or the energy balance approach. A number of projects have been completed or are underway to compare these models. Hydrological applications, avalanche forecasting, weather forecasting, and climate modeling have all driven snow research, with much cross fertilization between these fields.


  • snow;
  • snowcover;
  • flooding;
  • snowcover depletion;
  • snowmelt modeling