Variability of snow line elevation, snow cover area and depletion in the main Slovak basins in winters 2001–2014

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Spatial and temporal variability of snow line (SL) elevation, snow cover area (SCA) and depletion (SCD) in winters 2001–2014 is investigated in ten main Slovak river basins (the Western Carpathians). Daily satellite snow cover maps from MODIS Terra (MOD10A1, V005) and Aqua (MYD10A1, V005) with resolution 500 m are used.

The results indicate three groups of basins with similar variability in the SL elevation. The first includes basins with maximum elevations above 1500 m a.s.l. (Poprad, Upper Váh, Hron, Hornád). Winter median SL is equal or close to minimum basin elevation in snow rich winters in these basins. Even in snow poor winters is SL close to the basin mean. Second group consists of mid-altitude basins with maximum elevation around 1000 m a.s.l. (Slaná, Ipeľ, Nitra, Bodrog). Median SL varies between 150 and 550 m a.s.l. in January and February, which represents approximately 40–80% snow coverage. Median SL is near the maximum basin elevation during the snow poor winters. This means that basins are in such winters snow free approximately 50% of days in January and February. The third group includes the Rudava/Myjava and Lower Váh/Danube. These basins have their maximum altitude less than 700 m a.s.l. and only a small part of these basins is covered with snow even during the snow rich winters.

The evaluation of SCA shows that snow cover typically starts in December and last to February. In the highest basins (Poprad, Upper Váh), the snow season sometimes tends to start earlier (November) and lasts to March/April. The median of SCA is, however, less than 10% in these months. The median SCA of entire winter season is above 70% in the highest basins (Poprad, Upper Váh, Hron), ranges between 30–60% in the mid-altitude basins (Hornád, Slaná, Ipeľ, Nitra, Bodrog) and is less than 1% in the Myjava/Rudava and Lower Váh/Danube basins. However, there is a considerable variability in seasonal coverage between the years. Our results indicate that there is no significant trend in mean SCA in the period 2001–2014, but periods with larger and smaller SCA exist. Winters in the period 2002–2006 have noticeably larger mean SCA than those in the period 2007–2012.

Snow depletion curves (SDC) do not have a simple evolution in most winters. The snowmelt tends to start between early February and the end of March. The snowmelt lasts between 8 and 15 days on average in lowland and high mountain basins, respectively. Interestingly, the variability in SDC between the winters is much larger than between the basins.

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