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Geography and Environmental Studies


This study details seasonal characteristics in the annual surface energy balance of upland and lowland tundra during the 1998–99 water year (Y2). It contrasts the results with the 1997–98 water year (Y1) and relates the findings to the climatic normals for the lower Mackenzie River basin region. Both years were much warmer than the long-term average, with Y1 being both warmer and wetter than Y2. Six seasons are defined as early winter, midwinter, late winter, spring, summer, and fall. The most rapid changes in the surface energy balance occur in spring, fall, and late winter. Of these, spring is the most dynamic, and there is distinct asymmetry between rates of change in spring and those in fall. Rates of change of potential insolation (extraterrestrial solar radiation) in late winter, spring, and fall are within 10% of one another, being highest in late winter and smallest in spring. Rates of change in air temperature and ground temperature are twice as large in spring as in fall and late winter, when they are about the same. Rates of change in components of the energy balance in spring are twice and 4 times as large as in fall and late winter, respectively. The timing of snowpack ripening and snowmelt is the major agent determining the magnitude of asymmetry between fall and spring. This timing is a result of interaction between the solar cycle, air temperature, and snowpack longevity. Based on evidence from this study, potential surface responses to a 18C increase in air temperature are small to moderate in most seasons, but are large in spring when increases range from 7% to 10% of average surface energy fluxes.


This article was originally published in Journal of Hydrometeorology, 4(4): 673-679. © 2003 American Meteorological Society