High latitude drainage basins are experiencing higher average temperatures, earlier snowmelt onset in spring, and an increase in rain on snow (ROS) events in winter, trends that climate models project into the future. Snowmelt-dominated basins are most sensitive to winter temperature increases that influence the frequency of ROS events and the timing and duration of snowmelt, resulting in changes to spring runoff. Of specific interest in this study are early melt events that occur in late winter preceding melt onset in the spring. The study focuses on satellite determination and characterization of these early melt events using the Yukon River Basin (Canada/USA) as a test domain. The timing of these events was estimated using data from passive (Advanced Microwave Scanning RadiometerEOS (AMSR-E)) and active (SeaWinds on Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT)) microwave remote sensors, employing detection algorithms for brightness temperature (AMSR-E) and radar backscatter (QuikSCAT). The satellite detected events were validated with ground station meteorological and hydrological data, and the spatial and temporal variability of the events across the entire river basin was characterized. Possible causative factors for the detected events, including ROS, fog, and positive air temperatures, were determined by comparing the timing of the events to parameters from SnowModel and National Centers for Environmental Prediction North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) outputs, and weather station data. All melt events coincided with above freezing temperatures, while a limited number corresponded to ROS (determined from SnowModel and ground data) and a majority to fog occurrence (determined from NARR). The results underscore the significant influence that warm air intrusions have on melt in some areas and demonstrate the large temporal and spatial variability over years and regions. The study provides a method for melt detection and a baseline from which to assess future change.