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ECV T5 Snow cover
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Several elements must be considered under the heading “snow cover”: snow extent, snow depth, snow water equivalent, snow all and solid precipitation.

ECV Snow cover standards report

As requested by UNFCCC SBSTA/COP for its 23rd Session in Montreal, November 2005, GTOS is undertaking the assessment of the status of the development of standards for each of the essential climate variables in the terrestrial domain. The following report, documentation and other material have been compiled for snow cover. We very much welcome your comments and inputs in improving and completing the analysis. Please send any material and comments to the GTOS Secretariat.


Download report PDF, 0.90 Mb, 1 November 2009


Listed below are the major references that have been identified in regards to methodology and standards for snow cover. Please inform us if you are aware of any other documentation or material which could be considered.

Allison, I., Barry, R.G. and Goodison, B.E. (eds.; 2001): Climate and Cryosphere Project Science and Co-ordination Plan Version 1. WCRP-114, WMO/TD No. 1053, Geneva: 45, 53-54).

Armstrong, R.L., and M.J. Brodzik. (2001). Recent Northern Hemisphere snow extent: a comparison of data derived from visible and microwave sensors. Geophysical Research Letters 28(19): 3673-3676.

Barry, R.G. (1995): Observing systems and data sets related to the cryosphere in Canada: a contribution to planning for the Global Climate Observing System. Atmosphere - Ocean 33 (4): 771-807

Campbell Scientific Companies. 2007. SR50 Sonic Ranging Sensor. Instruction Manual. Utah

Doesken, Nolan J., A. Judson, 1996: The Snow Booklet: A Guide to the Science, Climatology, and Measurement of Snow in the United States. Colorado State University.

Easterling, D.R., Karl, T.R., Lawrimore, J.H. and Del Greco, S.A. (1999): United States Historical Climatology Network Daily Temperature, Precipitation, and Snow Data for 1871-1997. ORNL/CDIAC-118, NDP-070. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 84 pp.

Frei, A., and D.A. Robinson. (1999). Northern Hemisphere snow extent: regional variability 1972-1994. International Journal of Climatology 19: 1535-1560.

Goodison, D.E., Brown, R.D. and Crane, R.G. (lead authors; 1999): Cryospheric systems. Eos Science Plan, NASA pp. 261-307. See Reference

Goodison, B. E., et al., 1988: The Canadian automatic snow depth sensor: a performance update. Proceedings of the Fifth-sixth Annual Western Snow Conference, Atmospheric Environment Service, Canada, pp. 178–181.

Groisman, P., T.R. Karl, and R.W. Knight. (1994). Observed impact of snow cover on the heat balance and the rise of continental spring temperatures. Science 263: 198-200.

Lundberg, A., and Halldin, S., (2001). Snow measurement techniques for land-surface-atmosphere exchange studies in boreal landscapes. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 70, 215-230

Kennett M, Laumann T, Elvehùy H (1996) Snow-pro-et barometer-basert utstyr for profilmaÈlning av snùdyp. Norges Vassdrags- og Energiverk NVE rapport 14, 10 pp

Robinson. D.A. (1993). Recent Trends in Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover. Fourth Symposium on Global Change Studies. American Meteorological Society. Anaheim, CA.

Serreze, M.C., Clark, M.P., Armstrong, R.L., McGinnis, D.A. and Pulwarty, R.S. (1999): Characteristics of the western United States snowpack from snowpack telemetry (SNOTEL) data. Water Resources Research 7: 2145-2160

GCOS (2003): Status Report on the Key Climate Variables Technical Supplement to the Second Report on the Adequacy of the Global Observing Systems for Climate . Draft Version 2.7 10th September 2003

U.S. Department of Commerce, (1997): Snow Measurement Guidelines for National Weather Service Cooperative Observers. Silver Spring, MD.

Vorosmarty, C. J and 15 others (The Ad Hoc Group on Global Water Data). (2001) Global water data: An endangered species. EOS 82(3), 54,56,58.
World Meteorological Organization, 1992: Snow Cover Measurements and Areal Assessment of Precipitation and Soil Moisture (B. Sevruk). Operational Hydrology Report No. 35, WMO–No. 749, Geneva.

WMO 1994, Guide to hydrological practices, data acquisition and processing, analysing forecasting and other applications, fifth edition, WMO report No 168, WMO, Geneva, 286 pp .

Relevant Web links

Listed below are links relevant to snow cover. New links are welcome.

National snow and ice data center
National Snow Analysis Center

TEMS variables and T-sites

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Monitoring Sites (TEMS) database contains details on ecological variables and research sites which are undertaking ecological measurements. Data and sites relevant to snow cover is listed below.


We would like to thank the following individuals for having provided inputs and comments to the snow cover ECV.

. Monica Monteduro, NRC, FAO


We welcome your inputs, comments and queries. Please send feedback to the GTOS Secretariat.

The above activities are part of Task Number CL-06-03 of the GEOSS implementation plan of GEO.

T1-River | T2-Water Use  | T3-Ground Water | T4-Lake | T5-Snow | T6-Galciers |
T7-Frost | T8-Albedo | T9-Land | T10-fAPAR | T11-LAI | T12-Biomass | T13-Fire |
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© FAO   ::   Global Terrestrial Observing System - GTOS   ::   11 November 2009