Changing snow depth in the Great Lakes basin (USA): Implications and trends

Zachary J. Suriano, David A. Robinson, Daniel J. Leathers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In the Great Lakes basin of North America, snow plays a critical role in the regional hydroclimate, where snow ablation events can serve both as a resource and a hazard. The frequency and magnitude of an ablation event is governed by the availability of meteorological conditions to ablate snow, and the physical presence of snow to be ablated. While the meteorological conditions leading to ablation have been well documented, examining changes in atmospheric conditions alone have been unable to completely explain observed ablation trends. As such, this study applies a gridded snow depth dataset to evaluate snow depth variability, while speaking to the implications of such variability on ablation frequency and water resources. Snow cover is present in the basin from November – April, with the more northerly regions (Lake Superior and Lake Huron basins)exhibiting a deeper and more seasonally-persistent snowpack. Seasonal basin-wide snow depth decreased by approximately 25% from 1960 to 2009, with some of the most significant decreases occurring north of Lake Superior. Surface air temperatures are negatively associated snow depth, and warming temperatures are likely contributing to snow depth declines. These regional decreases in snow depth spatially corroborate previously observed decreases in the frequency of ablation events in the basin, and highlight the importance of examining both snow cover and meteorological conditions when seeking to explain snow ablation variability. The results from this study can be applied to inform water resource management decisions in the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100208
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Ablation
  • Climate change
  • Great Lakes
  • Lake superior
  • Snow
  • Water resources


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