Detection of snow surface thawing and refreezing in the Eurasian Arctic with QuikSCAT: implications for reindeer herding

Annett Bartsch, Timo Kumpula, Bruce C. Forbes, Florian Stammler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Snow conditions play an important role for reindeer herding. In particular, the formation of ice crusts after rain-on-snow (ROS) events or general surface thawing with subsequent refreezing impedes foraging. Such events can be monitored using satellite data. A monitoring scheme has been developed for observation at the circumpolar scale based on data from the active microwave sensor SeaWinds on QuikSCAT (Ku-band), which is sensitive to changes on the snow surface. Ground observations on Yamal Peninsula were used for algorithm development. Snow refreezing patterns are presented for northern Eurasia above 60 degrees N from autumn 2001 to spring 2008. Western Siberia is more affected than Central and Eastern Siberia in accordance with climate data, and most events occur in November and April. Ice layers in late winter have an especially negative effect on reindeer as they are already weakened. Yamal Peninsula is located within a transition zone between high and low frequency of events. Refreezing was observed more than once a winter across the entire peninsula during recent years. The southern part experienced refreezing events on average four times each winter. Currently, herders can migrate laterally or north-south, depending on where and when a given event occurs. However, formation of ice crusts in the northern part of the peninsula may become as common as they are now in the southern part. Such a development would further constrain the possibility to migrate on the peninsula.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2346-2358
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • active microwave
  • climate change
  • reindeer
  • remote sensing
  • scatterometer
  • Siberia
  • snow
  • Yamal Nenets
  • RAIN
  • ICE

Field of science

  • Other engineering and technologies
  • Ecology, evolutionary biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Detection of snow surface thawing and refreezing in the Eurasian Arctic with QuikSCAT: implications for reindeer herding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Citation for this output