Large quantities of water are discharged from subarctic basins during snowmelt season. Runoff contributing areas as well as timing and magnitude of meltwater generation from different slopes are highly variable. Two slopes in the lower Wolf Creek basin, southern Yukon, were studied in 1997. The south-facing slope has a dense aspen forest that is leafless in the melt period (April – May) and is underlain by seasonal frost. The north-facing slope has open stands of spruce and an organic layer that rests on mineral soils with permafrost. In 1997, snowmelt is advanced by over 10 days on the south slope, which receives more solar radiation than the north aspect. All meltwater on the south slope infiltrates the frozen silt without generating runoff. By the time significant melt events occur on the north slope the frost and snow are gone from the south. Meltwater is able to infiltrate the frozen organic soil but deep percolation is prevented by the ice-rich substrate. Lateral flow begins after the organic layer is saturated, with much runoff along intermittent rills fed by diffuse and pipe flows. Rills and pipes are interconnected but the drainage network and runoff contributing area change depending on the disposition of the snow as well as water and frost table positions relative to local topography. Contrasts between the north and south slopes have important implications on direct runoff generation during the melt period. Situations similar to the study site can be found elsewhere in subarctic North America and the observed processes have a bearing upon hydrological modelling for the subarctic environment.

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