The Euphrates and Tigris rivers serve as the most important water resources in the Middle East. Precipitation in this region falls mostly in the form of snow over the higher elevations of the Euphrates Basin and remains on the ground for nearly half of the year. This snow-covered area (SCA) is a key element of the hydrological cycle, and monitoring the SCA is crucial for making accurate forecasts of snowmelt discharge, especially for energy production, flood control, irrigation, and reservoir-operation optimization in the Upper Euphrates (Karasu) Basin. Remote sensing allows the detection of the spatio-temporal patterns of snow cover across large areas in inaccessible terrain, such as the eastern part of Turkey, which is highly mountainous. In this study, a seasonal evaluation of the snow cover from 2000 to 2009 was performed using 8-day snow-cover products (MOD10C2) and the daily snow-water equivalent (SWE) product. The values of SWE products were obtained using an assimilation process based on the Helsinki University of Technology model using equal area Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) Earth-gridded advanced microwave scanning radiometer—EOS daily brightness-temperature values. In the Karasu Basin, the SCA percentage for the winter period is 80–90%. The relationship between the SCA and the runoff during the spring period is analysed for the period from 2004 to 2009. An inverse linear relationship between the normalized SCA and the normalized runoff values was obtained (r = 0·74). On the basis of the monthly mean temperature, total precipitation and snow depth observed at meteorological stations in the basin, the decrease in the peak discharges, and early occurrences of the peak discharges in 2008 and 2009 are due to the increase in the mean temperature and the decrease in the precipitation in April. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.