Impact of snow and shade from a tree on surface temperature

It snowed at my house in Michigan last week, the first week of December 2020. I love snow and I really like to see how snow affects the surface temperature. Between 60 and 80 mm of snow was on the ground. I took surface temperature observations as part of the Urban Heat Island Student Research Campaign. I wanted to show what you could do by yourself at your house if you have an infrared thermometer.

My two sites are my backyard which is grass and the gravel driveway in the front of our house. The backyard has a line of Black Spruce trees just south of where I am standing in the picture. The trees cast shadows on part of the backyard. In this blog, I'll look at how surface temperature is affected by the snow, land cover and the shadow.

In this graph, you can see that the surface temperature in the sun, in general, was higher than the temperature in the shade. I marked where there was snow on the ground. Once the snow melted, the temperature went above freezing. On December 8, 2020, skies were very cloudy so the temperature of both areas was the same because there was no snow.

You can see that the driveway had higher temperatures than the grass. Snow melted first on the driveway as well. So, my conclusions from this study is that the tree shade, grass land cover and snow helped to keep the area cool.

I hope to continue to take surface temperature observations this week through January 1, 2021.

I also wanted to share what a remote learning school in North Carolina has done for the campaign. Linda Schmalbeck is the teacher at the North Carolina of Science and Math School.  Since it is a remote learning school, she has students from all over the state. She has had all of her students take GLOBE observations from near where they live. They met at an arboretum on a Saturday where Linda gave the students infrared thermometers to use. They then used them at their houses. Below is a map of the observations across the state. The green dots represent a sampling location.


Dr. C


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