Polar Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 419–426 | Cite as

Frequency, timing, extent, and size of winter thaw-refreeze events in Alaska 2001–2008 detected by remotely sensed microwave backscatter data

  • Ryan R. Wilson
  • Annett Bartsch
  • Kyle Joly
  • Joel H. Reynolds
  • Anne Orlando
  • Wendy M. Loya
Original Paper

Abstract

Creation of ice layers in snow due to thaw-refreeze events can lock away winter forage, preventing access by large mammals and causing population declines. Data are limited, however, on the frequency, timing, extent, and size of thaw-refreeze events in northern latitudes given the area’s remoteness and paucity of weather stations. We used a remote sensing approach to detect thaw-refreeze events in Alaska during winter between 2001 and 2008. We also compared these results to a regional climate reanalysis dataset that identified rain events (freezing and non-freezing rain). All areas of the state, except high elevation sites, had ≥1 thaw-refreeze event during the study period. Southwestern Alaska had the highest frequency of thaw-refreeze events with an average of >4 events each winter, whereas northern Alaska had the lowest frequency with an average of <2 events. We observed substantial inter-annual variation in the distribution and frequency of thaw-refreeze events. For most of the state, thaw-refreeze occurred at similar rates each winter month, except in northern Alaska where thaw-refreeze events were most frequent in early and later winter. The median extent of individual thaw-refreeze events was 469 km2, however, events in the interior of the state tended to be larger. Remotely sensed thaw-refreeze detections generally had low correspondence with observations from the climate reanalysis dataset. Our results support the use of remotely sensed data to identify thaw-refreeze events.

Keywords

Alaska Freezing rain Ice QuikSCAT Rain-on-snow Remote sensing ROS Scatterometer Snow characteristics 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan R. Wilson
    • 1
  • Annett Bartsch
    • 2
  • Kyle Joly
    • 3
  • Joel H. Reynolds
    • 4
  • Anne Orlando
    • 5
  • Wendy M. Loya
    • 1
  1. 1.The Wilderness SocietyAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote SensingVienna University of TechnologyViennaAustria
  3. 3.National Park ServiceFairbanksUSA
  4. 4.United States Fish and Wildlife ServiceAnchorageUSA
  5. 5.Selawik National Wildlife RefugeKotzebueUSA

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