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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  28 Jul 2020

28 Jul 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Snow cover duration trends observed at sites and predicted by multiple models

Richard Essery1, Hyungjun Kim2, Libo Wang3, Paul Bartlett3, Aaron Boone4, Claire Brutel-Vuilmet5, Eleanor Burke6, Matthias Cuntz7, Bertrand Decharme4, Emanuel Dutra8, Xing Fang9, Yeugeniy Gusev10, Stefan Hagemann11, Vanessa Haverd12, Anna Kontu13, Gerhard Krinner5, Matthieu Lafaysse14, Yves Lejeune14, Thomas Marke15, Danny Marks16, Christoph Marty17, Cecile B. Menard1, Olga Nasonova10, Tomoko Nitta2, John Pomeroy9, Gerd Schaedler18, Vladimir Semenov19, Tatiana Smirnova20, Sean Swenson21, Dmitry Turkov22, Nander Wever17,23, and Hua Yuan24 Richard Essery et al.
  • 1School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • 2Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
  • 3Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, Canada
  • 4Université de Toulouse, Météo-France, CNRS, Toulouse, France
  • 5CNRS, Université Grenoble Alpes, Institut de Géosciences de l’Environnement, Grenoble, France
  • 6Met Office, Exeter, UK
  • 7Université de Lorraine, AgroParisTech, INRAE, UMR Silva, Nancy, France
  • 8Instituto Dom Luiz, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 9Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
  • 10Institute of Water Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
  • 11Institute of Coastal Research, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Geesthacht, Germany
  • 12CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Canberra, ACT, Australia
  • 13Space and Earth Observation Centre, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Sodankylä, Finland
  • 14Météo-France, CNRS, CNRM, Centre d’Etudes de la Neige, Grenoble, France
  • 15Department of Geography, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 16USDA Agricultural Research Service, Boise, ID, USA
  • 17WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland
  • 18Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 19A.M. Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
  • 20Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science/Earth System Research Laboratory, NOAA, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 21Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 22Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
  • 23Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 24School of Atmospheric Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

Abstract. Thirty-year simulations of seasonal snow cover in 22 physically based models driven with bias-corrected meteorological reanalyses are examined at four sites with long records of snow observations. Annual snow cover durations differ widely between models but interannual variations are strongly correlated because of the common driving data. No significant trends are observed in starting dates for seasonal snow cover, but there are significant trends towards snow cover ending earlier at two of the sites in observations and most of the models. A simplified model with just two parameters controlling solar radiation and sensible heat contributions to snowmelt spans the ranges of snow cover durations and trends. This model predicts that sites where snow persists beyond annual peaks in solar radiation and air temperature will experience rapid decreases in snow cover duration with warming as snow begins to melt earlier and at times of year with more energy available for melting.

Richard Essery et al.

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Richard Essery et al.

Data sets

ESM-SnowMIP meteorological and evaluation datasets at ten reference sites (in situ and bias corrected reanalysis data) Cecile B. Menard and Richard Essery

Richard Essery et al.


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Latest update: 21 Oct 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Climate models are uncertain in predicting how warming changes snow cover. This paper compares 22 snow models with the same meteorological inputs. Predicted trends agree with observations at four snow research sites: winter snow cover does not start later, but snow now melts earlier in spring than in the 1980s at two of the sites. Cold regions where snow can last until late summer are predicted to be particularly sensitive to warming because the snow then melts faster at warmer times of year.
Climate models are uncertain in predicting how warming changes snow cover. This paper compares...