Multiple remotely sensed lines of evidence for a depleting seasonal snowpack in the near east

Yeliz A. Yilmaz*, Kristoffer Aalstad, Omer L. Sen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The snow-fed river basins of the Near East region are facing an urgent threat in the form of declining water resources. In this study, we analyzed several remote sensing products (optical, passive microwave, and gravimetric) and outputs of a meteorological reanalysis data set to understand the relationship between the terrestrial water storage anomalies and the mountain snowpack. The results from different satellite retrievals show a clear signal of a depletion of both water storage and the seasonal snowpack in four basins in the region. We find a strong reduction in terrestrial water storage over the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) observational period, particularly over the higher elevations. Snow-cover duration estimates from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) products point towards negative and significant trends up to one month per decade in the current era. These numbers are a clear indicator of the partial disappearance of the seasonal snow-cover in the region which has been projected to occur by the end of the century. The spatial patterns of changes in the snow-cover duration are positively correlated with both GRACE terrestrial water storage decline and peak snow water equivalent (SWE) depletion from the ERA5 reanalysis. Possible drivers of the snowpack depletion are a significant reduction in the snowfall ratio and an earlier snowmelt. A continued depletion of the montane snowpack in the Near East paints a bleak picture for future water availability in this water-stressed region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number483
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors.


  • AMSR-E
  • AMSR2
  • Coruh
  • ERA5
  • Euphrates
  • Kura-Araks
  • Near east
  • Snow cover
  • Snow water equivalent
  • Tigris
  • Van Lake
  • Water resources


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