Civil Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-12-2018


Mountain snowpacks provide essential water for socio-economic systems around the world, with nearly two billion people living in snow sensitive regions. Therefore, methods for characterizing the snowpack-streamflow dynamics at the watershed level are essential for understanding how changes in temperature and precipitation due to climate change will affect the water supply in these regions. However, in-situ snowpack measurements, such as snow water equivalent (SWE), are often unavailable or insufficient due to the financial and logistical constraints of installing snowpack monitoring systems. Remotely-sensed snow cover extent (SCE), or the proportion of a watershed that is covered in snow, has been previously integrated into snowmelt models and used to assess the relationships between snowmelt and streamflow. However, no research was found that provided a comprehensive analysis of the ability of SCE to characterize snowpack-streamflow dynamics in a way that supports analysis between and within watersheds. This study develops and tests a methodology for characterizing the snowpack-streamflow dynamics of a watershed using SCE-based metrics that capture the shape and key temporal inflections in the SCE curve – start of snow season, start of snow melt, end of snow season, and average SCE. The results demonstrate that SCE and streamflow sufficiently characterize snowpack-streamflow dynamics to allow for inter-watershed comparison and intra-watershed pattern recognition. The techniques developed and tested in this study allow for the characterization of snowpack-streamflow dynamics in remote and unmonitored watersheds to support future research into how those dynamics may change under future climate change scenarios.


remote sensing, snow cover extent, hysteresis, snowpack-streamflow dynamics, snow water equivalent, MODIS

Document Type




Degree Name

Civil Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Civil Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Mark Stone

Second Committee Member

Julie Coonrod

Third Committee Member

Joseph Galewsky