Tree Effects on Snowpack Energetics Experiment (TESEE)
Lead researcher: Andrew Schwartz
Water generated in mountainous regions is crucial as a source of clean drinking water, irrigation for agriculture, energy production, and recreation. Arguably, the most important role in the generation and regulation of these waters is that of montane snowpacks that act to store and slowly release meltwater. While many variables have impacts on these snowpacks, forest cover has been found to be the highest correlated variable to snow accumulation and melt (Varhola et al. 2010). Previous research on the effects of trees on snowpacks has been limited to boreal and mid-latitude forested regions of the Northern Hemisphere that are typically characterized by cold and dry winters and similar forest characteristics.
The Snowy Mountains of Southeast Australia are home to mild temperatures, wet winters, and a marginal snowpack that sits precariously on the edge of complete ablation for the majority of the winter season. Small fluctuations in energy to the snowpack can cause dramatic increases in melt or storage during the winter. This project aims to examine and quantify the impacts of Eucalyptus pauciflora trees on snowpack energetics through exhaustive measurement of energy transfer in forested regions of the Snowy Mountains. Effects of single trees as well as those of living and dead (burned) tree stands on snow accumulation, ablation, and snow water equivalent (SWE) will be investigated over a variety of spatiotemporal scales. This study will be crucial to water management in the region and could be considered a pilot study for changes to forested snowpacks that will accompany climate change as it impacts the mountainous regions in the mid- and upper-latitude regions of the world.