Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

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

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Polar Biology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Bartsch A, Kumpula T, Forbes BC, Stammler F (2010a) Detection of snow surface thawing and refreezing in the Eurasian Arctic with QuikSCAT: implications for reindeer herding. Ecol Appl 20:2346–2358

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bartsch A, Wagner W, Naeimi V (2010b) The legacy of 10 years of QuikSCAT land applications—possibilities and limitations for a continuation with Metop ASCAT. In: Lacoste-Francis H (ed) Proceedings of the ESA living planet symposium, Bergen, Norway. ESTEC, Noordwijk, pp 1–6

  • Collins WB, Smith TS (1991) Effects of wind-hardened snow on foraging by reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). Arctic 44:217–222

    Google Scholar 

  • Fleming MD, Chapin FS III, Cramer W, Huffords GL, Serreze MC (2000) Geographic patterns and dynamics of Alaskan climate interpolated from a sparse station record. Glob Change Biol. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2486.2000.06008.x

    Google Scholar 

  • Forchhammer M, Boertmann D (1993) The muskoxen Ovibos moschatus in north and northeast Greenland: population trends and the influence of abiotic parameters on population dynamics. Ecography 16:299–308

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grenfell TC, Putkonen J (2008) A method for the detection of the severe rain-on-snow event on Banks Island, October 2003, using passive microwave remote sensing. Water Resour Res. doi:10.1029/2007WR005929

    Google Scholar 

  • Hansen BB, Aanes R, Sæther B-E (2010) Feeding-crater selection by high-arctic reindeer facing ice-blocked pastures. Can J Zool 88:170–177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hansen BB, Aanes R, Herfindal I, Kohler J, Sæther B-E (2011) Climate, icing, and wild arctic reindeer: past relationships and future prospects. Ecology 92:1917–1923

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kidd RA, Trommler M, Wagner W (2003) The development of a processing environment for time-series analysis of SeaWinds Scatterometer data. IEEE Geosci Remote Sens 6:4110–4112

    Google Scholar 

  • Liston GE, Hiemstra CA (2011) The changing cryosphere: pan-arctic snow trends (1979–2009). J Clim 24:5691–5712

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Manikin GS, Brill KF, Ferrier B (2004) An ETA model precipitation type mini-ensemble for winter weather forecasting. In: 16th conference on numerical weather prediction. American Meteorological Society, Seattle. http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/73517.pdf. Accessed 3 July 2012

  • Mesinger F et al (2006) North American regional reanalysis. Bull Am Meteorl Soc 87:343–360

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miller FL, Gunn A (2003) Catastrophic die-off of Peary Caribou on the Western Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canadian High Arctic. Arctic 56:381–390

    Google Scholar 

  • Putkonen J, Roe G (2003) Rain-on-snow events impact soil temperatures and affect ungulate survival. Geophys Res Lett. doi:10.1029/2002GL016326

    Google Scholar 

  • Rennert KJ, Roe G, Putkonen J, Bitz CM (2009) Soil thermal and ecological impacts of rain on snow events in the circumpolar arctic. J Clim 22:2302–2315

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shulski M, Wendler G (2007) The climate of Alaska. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks

    Google Scholar 

  • Solberg EJ, Jorhøy P, Strand O, Aanes R, Loison A, Sæther B-E, Linnell JDC (2001) Effects of density-dependence and climate on the dynamics of a Svalbard reindeer population. Ecography 24:441–451

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stien A, Loe LE, Mysterud A, Sverinsen T, Kohler J, Langvatn R (2010) Icing events trigger range displacement in a high-arctic ungulate. Ecology 91:915–920

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tyler NJC (2010) Climate, snow, ice, crashes, and declines in populations of reindeer and caribou (Rangifer tarandus L.). Ecol Monogr 80:197–219

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • VanDerWal J, Falconi L, Januchowski S, Shoo L, Storlie C (2012) Species distribution modelling tools: tools for processing data associated with species distribution modelling exercises (version 1.1-5). http://cran.R-project.Org/. Accessed 3 July 2012

Download references

Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative. We thank S. McAffee, M. Cornelison, J. Dau, and B. Griffith for providing valuable comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ryan R. Wilson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wilson, R.R., Bartsch, A., Joly, K. et al. Frequency, timing, extent, and size of winter thaw-refreeze events in Alaska 2001–2008 detected by remotely sensed microwave backscatter data. Polar Biol 36, 419–426 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-012-1272-6

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-012-1272-6

Keywords

Navigation