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Inter-annual variability in snow cover depletion patterns and atmospheric circulation indices in the Upper Irtysh basin, Central Asia
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  • Davide Fugazza,
  • Thomas Shaw,
  • Shamshagul Mashtayeva,
  • Ben Brock
Davide Fugazza
University of Milan
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Thomas Shaw
Advanced Mining Technology Center
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Shamshagul Mashtayeva
Lev Gumilev Eurasian National University
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Ben Brock
University of Northumbria at Newcastle
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Abstract

The Irtysh River is the main water resource of eastern Kazakhstan and its upper basin is severely affected by spring floods each year, primarily as a result of snowmelt. Knowledge of the large scale processes that influence the timing of these snow-induced floods is currently lacking, but critical for the management of water resources in the area. In this study, we evaluated the variability in winter-spring snow cover in five major sub-basins of the Upper Irtysh basin between 2000 and 2017 as a possible explanatory factor of spring flood events, assessing the time of peak snow cover depletion rate and snow cover disappearance from the MODIS MOD10A2 dataset. We found that on average, peak snow cover retreat occurs between 22 March and 14 April depending on the basin, with large inter-annual variations but no clear trend over the observation period. In contrast, the annual peak snow cover depletion rate displays a weak increasing trend over the study period and exceeded 5900 km2 day-1 in 2017. The timing of snow disappearance in spring shows significant correlations of up to 0.82 for the largest basin with winter indices of the Arctic Oscillation over the region. The primary driver is the impact of the large scale pressure anomalies upon the mean spring (MAM) air temperatures and resultant timing of snow cover disappearance, particularly at elevations 500-2000 m above sea level. This suggests a lagged effect of this atmospheric circulation pattern in spring snow cover retreat. The winter Arctic Oscillation index could therefore be incorporated into long-term runoff forecasts for the Irtysh. Our approach is easily transferable to other similar catchments, and could support flood management strategies in Kazakhstan and other countries.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

15 Dec 2019Submitted to Hydrological Processes
16 Dec 2019Submission Checks Completed
16 Dec 2019Assigned to Editor
16 Dec 2019Reviewer(s) Assigned
04 Feb 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
10 Feb 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Major
16 Mar 20201st Revision Received
17 Mar 2020Submission Checks Completed
17 Mar 2020Assigned to Editor
17 Mar 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
14 Apr 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
17 Apr 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
07 May 20202nd Revision Received
08 May 2020Submission Checks Completed
08 May 2020Assigned to Editor
08 May 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
15 May 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
01 Jun 2020Editorial Decision: Accept