The characteristics and classification of Australian Snow Cover; an ecological perspective

Glenn M Sanecki, Ken Green, Helen Wood, David Lindenmayer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    We provide a description of the structural and thermal characteristics of snow cover in the Snowy Mountains of southeast Australia. Using the snow classification system developed by Sturm et al. (1995), the snow cover in the Snowy Mountains is classified primarily as maritime in areas where there is sufficient accumulation, and as ephemeral at lower elevations and on ablating aspects. Maritime snow is generally deep (>100 cm), with a density >0.30 g cm'3. The snow-ground interface is maintained within 1°C of freezing and relatively high air temperatures promote equitemperature metamorphism throughout the winter. The formation of depth hoar (temperature gradient snow), which is considered to be important in facilitating the development of the subnivean space, does not occur under these conditions. Ephemeral snow is characterized by warm shallow snow that often melts before new snow is deposited. Basal melt is a common feature of snow cover in the Snowy Mountains throughout most of the winter. We reappraise the processes responsible for the formation of the subnivean space under Australian snow conditions and discuss the importance of these processes for understanding the ecology of fauna in the subnivean space. Our findings highlight the value of an explicit description of snow conditions to ecological research in snow-covered areas. As a minimum, researchers should provide a description of basic structural and thermal properties of the snow pack that would allow other researchers to view the work in an appropriate context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)429-435
    Number of pages7
    JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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