Determination of snow characteristics in mountainous basins is difficult due to the complex spatial and temporal variability of snow cover. Accurate representation of snow cover variations in space and time is an important factor in snowmelt modeling, hydrological forecasts, water resources planning, and drought management. This study demonstrates how remotely sensed data can complement the measurements of ground hydro-meteorological data to simulate the spatial and temporal variations of snow cover characteristics in a mountainous basin. In this paper, we studied Karun basin, located in the south west of Iran, because of its importance in accumulating large snow reserves, and subsequently contributing snowmelt to the total runoff. Snow cover variability was simulated by extraction of maps of snow cover indices using remotely sensed data. Contribution of snowmelt to the runoff was determined using a seasonal water balance model as well as estimations based on indirect approaches by modeling variables such as critical temperature, which is an important variable in snow studies. Agreement between indirect approaches used in this paper is an encouraging result that shows the reliability of the procedure where snow data is scarce. The results of correlation analysis between topographic and meteorological variables with snow cover indices suggested that elevation is the single most important variable on large-scale snow variability.

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