Correcting a bias undermining the global importance of snowmelt


We use stable water isotopes, "fingerprints" of the water molecule, to better understand the current and future importance of snow for local and global water resources.


Water isotope sample vial in snow
Picture: Pertti Ala-aho

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Funded by

Academy of Finland

Project coordinator

University of Oulu

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Project description

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.

Project actions

Do you have STABLE WATER ISOTOPE DATA of SNOWMELT you would like TO SHARE???

We are making a global effort to collect snowmelt isotope data from different snow environments. If interested in contributing, please get in touch by

(1) filling in this questionnaire:

(2) e-mailing charlotte.ditlevsen(at)