Snow and frost: Implications for spatiotemporal infiltration patterns - a review

Angela Lundberg*, Pertti Otto Antero Ala-Aho, Olemartin Eklo, Björn Klöve, Jens Kværner, Christine Stumpp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Vast regions of the northern hemisphere are exposed to snowfall and seasonal frost. This has large effects on spatiotemporal distribution of infiltration and groundwater recharge processes as well as on the fate of pollutants. Therefore, snow and frost need to be central inherent elements of risk assessment and management schemes. However, snow and frost are often neglected or treated summarily or in a simplistic way by groundwater modellers. Snow deposition is uneven, and the snow is likely to sublimate, be redistributed and partly melt during the winter influencing the mass and spatial distribution of snow storage available for infiltration, the presence of ice layers within and under the snowpack and, therefore, also the spatial distribution of depths and permeability of the soil frost. In steep terrain, snowmelt may travel downhill tens of metres in hours along snow layers. The permeability of frozen soil is mainly influenced by soil type, its water and organic matter content, and the timing of the first snow in relation to the timing of sub-zero temperatures. The aim with this paper is to review the literature on snow and frost processes, modelling approaches with the purpose to visualize and emphasize the need to include these processes when modelling, managing and predicting groundwater recharge for areas exposed to seasonal snow and frost.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1230-1250
Number of pages21
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number8
Early online date21 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2016


  • Infiltration in frozen soil
  • Review
  • Seasonal frost
  • Snow
  • Spatiotemporal distribution


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