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We have often used the large snow free circles that form in the spring around the trunks of large trees as camping spots. Even in an area blanketed with deep snow, there will be such bare, dry ground to camp on, although one may have a steep climb into or out of such a spot. They are like dry wells.

First, what are such bare-ground wells called?

I assume that the dark tree trunk absorbs heat and then acts as a heater to speed up melting around the trunk. Moreover, the snow was probably shallower around the trunk because of the tree branches. We observed these circles under evergreens.

Second, does this accelerated melting happen only when daytime temperatures go above freezing, or does it start earlier?

  • Former tree wells? – Martin F May 31 at 23:58
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    Yes it’s almost certainly former tree wells. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_well Since there was less snow there in the first place, it will melt sooner. It’s harder to tell if there is accelerated melting due to the trunk. More likely it’s that when bare ground appears that is darker and warms up more and thus expands the bare ground. – T. M. Jun 1 at 13:41
  • It could also be the tree bringing up warmth from underground as it starts "rehydrating" in the spring. But I would agree with @T.M. that it's just tree wells, having less snow to begin with, melting first. – IronEagle Jun 8 at 5:08
  • @IronEagle interesting idea, it make sense it would do that. I wonder how much of an effect it would have. – T. M. Jun 8 at 13:04

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