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Title: Unraveling the Controls on Snow Disappearance in Montane Conifer Forests Using Multi‐Site Lidar

Snow disappearance date (SDD) affects the ecohydrological dynamics of montane forests, by altering water availability, forest fire regime, and the land surface energy budget. The forest canopy modulates SDD through competing processes; dense canopy intercepts snowfall and enhances longwave radiation while shading snowpack from shortwave radiation and sheltering it from the wind. Limited ground‐based observations of snow presence and absence have restricted our ability to unravel the dominant processes affecting SDD in montane forests. We apply a lidar‐derived method to estimate fractional snow cover area (fSCA) at two relatively warm sites in the Sierra Nevada and two colder sites in the Rocky Mountains, which we link to SDD. With the exception of late season snowpack and low fSCA, snow retention is longer under low vegetation density than under high vegetation density in both warm and cold sites. Warm forests consistently have longer snow retention in open areas compared to dense under canopy areas, particularly on south‐facing slopes. Cold forests tend to have longer snow retention under lower density canopy compared to open areas, particularly on north‐facing slopes. We use this empirical analysis to make process inferences and develop an initial framework to predict SDD that incorporates the role of topography and vegetation structure. Building on our framework will be necessary to provide better forest management recommendations for snowpack retention across complex terrain and heterogenous canopy structure.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
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Journal Name:
Water Resources Research
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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