Joint Body on the Status of Mountain Snow Cover

Snow is a key feature of mountain regions globally. Snow helps mountain regions to serve as water towers, providing a critical supply of water to downstream areas. Furthermore, water from snow melt is essential for power generation, irrigation, water supply, groundwater recharge and aquatic ecosystems. Besides hydrology, snow plays an important role in numerical weather prediction, for sustaining mountain ecosystems, and tourism. Moreover, snow related natural hazards impact people and infrastructure directly or indirectly in all mountain regions.

This Joint-Body is a collaboration between the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS), the Mountain Research Initiative, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW), and counts on the support and participation from these institutions and their networks to realize the tasks under the respective Work Packages.


The overall goal of this Joint Body is to highlight the relevance of the mountain snow cover in general. The main objectives are:

  • The primary research objective is to provide robust information on mountain snow cover changes at a global scale over the past few decades based on compiling and standardizing existing data (sources) at sufficiently high resolution. The study will include surface observations (from weather and hydro stations as well as from avalanche services), remote sensing products, downscaled reanalysis data, and snow model simulations. While station data provide highly temporally resolved and long-term local information, satellite products can significantly increase spatial coverage of snow observations;
  • In addition to compiling and analyzing existing data series by investigating spatial and temporal trends of snow cover properties and derived indicators, this initiative also aims to better understand processes of accumulation and ablation based on existing modelling and observational studies;
  • Another important objective of this initiative is open access to snow data for the research community, and to contribute to operational capacity building in terms of understanding mountain snow cover changes and their impacts on and responses to climate, water, and environment.

Work Packages and How To Get Involved

WP1: Mountain snow data quality control and homogenization for use in climatology and hydrology

WP2: Status of snow cover multi-decadal changes in mountain regions of the world

WP3: Snow accumulation processes

WP4: Snow ablation processes – research gaps in mountain snow modelling

The proposal for this Joint Body was prepared by a core team of scientists active in various fields of snow research, data and information. Participation in the joint body is open to everybody who is willing to actively contribute to one or several of the objectives listed in the proposal.

Download the 2021 approved proposal here.