Correcting a bias undermining the global importance of snowmelt
Academy of Finland
University of Oulu
Unit and faculty
Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering
Faculty of Technology
We study how snowmelt sustains global water resources for human consumption and ecosystem water use. I use stable water isotopes, an intrinsic property of the water molecule, to trace melting snow as it moves through the landscape to either watercourses or vegetation. Isotope hydrology is the most powerful tool for such analysis, but we argue that present biases in understanding the isotope composition of snowmelt water have led to an underestimation of the importance of snowmelt for water resources.
To correct this underestimation, we will implement new snowpack isotope monitoring technology in Finland, collect snow water isotope samples around the world, and use the data to estimate snow isotopes with mathematical models. The warming climate is changing the global snow cover at an alarming rate. We aim to reveal the true importance of snowmelt, which will be important in understanding and mitigating the impacts of reduced snow.