Student’s research gets Editor’s Choice Award

Rod Boyce
Feb. 2, 2022

A research paper by Charlie Parr, a graduate student and former Geophysical Institute research technician who now works at the International Arctic Research Center, received an Editor’s Choice Award from Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
The award, for work published in 2020, was to have been announced at December’s fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The announcement didn’t occur due to difficulties caused by the virus pandemic.

Charlie Parr
Photo courtesy Charlie Parr
Charlie Parr

The recognition was for Parr’s paper, “Snowdrift Landscape Patterns: An Arctic Investigation.” Matthew Sturm and Chris Larsen are co-authors.
The research, conducted from 2012-2018, mapped near-peak seasonal snow depths across 126 square kilometers — nearly 50 square miles — in Northern Alaska using aerial structure-from-motion photogrammetry and lidar surveys. Parr found that on average 18% of the study area is covered by snowdrifts each winter and that 40% of the snow-water-equivalent is contained in the drifts. He also identified six types of drifts, some of which fill each winter, and also studied seasonal drift evolution and year-to-year similarity of drift patterns.
In his paper, Parr writes that drifts have a role not only in hydrology but also in vegetation, wildlife and human activity in the Arctic. The upwind scour zones of drifts are also important, providing easy travel and winter grazing for caribou, for example.

“The award is given to a selection of the top approximately 1% of papers published in WRR that year,” said Gia Destouni, editor in chief of Water Resources Research and head of the Department of Physical Geography at Stockholm University in an email to the GI’s Public Information Office
The paper was also spotlighted in Eos in December 2020.
“I was surprised and delighted to receive notice that my work had been recognized for this honor,” Parr said. “Snowdrifts are a crucial but under-appreciated component of the cryosphere that provide essential ecosystem services across the Arctic and beyond.”
Parr said the patient and persistent mentoring by Sturm taught him how to immerse himself in a snow-covered environment and perceive nature with diligent curiosity.
“I continue to be astonished by how much we can learn when we truly observe what is right in front of us,” Parr said. “It is one of life's grand privileges to live in Alaska and see the snowy world that surrounds you for all its fantastic complexity, and it makes for joyful shoveling to boot."

Parr is currently a geospatial programmer/analyst with IARC's Scenarios Network for Alaska + Arctic Planning program.