Effects of snow cover on soil freezing, water movement, and snowmelt infiltration: A paired plot experiment

Yukiyoshi Iwata, Masaki Hayashi, Shinji Suzuki, Tomoyoshi Hirota, Shuichi Hasegawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)


A dramatic reduction in soil frost depth has been reported for Hokkaido Island of northern Japan over the last 20 years. Since soil frost strongly affects snowmelt infiltration and runoff, the reduction in frost depth may have altered the water and nutrient cycles in this region. A paired-plot experiment was conducted in an agricultural field in Tokachi, Hokkaido, to compare the movement of soil water at different frost depths, controlled by manipulating the depth of snow cover. Snow was removed to enhance soil freezing in the treatment plot and was undisturbed in the control plot. The soil froze to a maximum depth of 0.43 m under the treatment plot and 0.11 m under the control plot. During the freezing period, the amount of upward soil water flux toward the freezing front in the treatment plot was more than double that in the control plot. During the snowmelt period, infiltration of meltwater was unimpeded by the thin frozen layer in the control plot, whereas the relatively thick frozen layer in the treatment plot impeded infiltration and generated 63 mm of runoff. These results clearly show that the changes in the timing and thickness of snow cover deposition can cause a dramatic reduction of frost depth and change in the soil water dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberW09504
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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