The mid-winter break-up of a competent river ice cover can cause ice jamming and flooding, which can have profound impacts on the structure and strength of the ice cover. This research identifies 52 mid-winter break-up events in western Canada (1950–2008) and Alaska (1950–2014) and evaluates the hydro-climatic drivers including temperature and precipitation. The identified mid-winter break-up events are primarily located in the temperate zone, defined as the region between 400 and 1,000 winter (Dec–Feb) freezing degree-days. Further delineation by terrestrial biome revealed considerable variability in hydro-climatic triggers, particularly the role of freeze-thaw days (Tmax > 0 °C and Tmin < 0 °C) in Tundra and Boreal Forest/Taiga biomes and short-term (3-day) warming events in Temperate Coniferous Forests and Temperate Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands. The classification of 5-day sequences of mid-tropospheric circulation indicates that a persistent trough of low-pressure over Alaska and the North Pacific is the dominant pattern preceding mid-winter break-ups. Furthermore, the trough is stronger for events in British Columbia and Alberta compared with Alaska and the Yukon. The results of this research improve our understanding of the hydro-climatic conditions that generate mid-winter break-up events in western Canada and Alaska and will aid in the prediction and risk management of such events.
- rain on snow
- river ice break-up
- warm spells
- First received 29 January 2016.
- Accepted in revised form 17 August 2016.
- © IWA Publishing 2016