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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Interannual variability of snow amount in northern Europe is studied. In the coldest areas, total winter precipitation governs snow amount variability. In warmer regions, the fraction of snowfall that survives without melting is more important. Since winter temperature and precipitation are positively correlated, there is often more snow in milder winters in the coldest areas. However, in model simulations of a warmer future climate, snow amount decreases nearly everywhere in northern Europe.
Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-343
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-343

  21 Dec 2020

21 Dec 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Snow conditions in northern Europe: the dynamics of interannual variability versus projected long-term change

Jouni Räisänen Jouni Räisänen
  • Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research/Physics, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 64, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

Abstract. Simulations by the EURO-CORDEX regional climate models (RCMs) indicate a widespread future decrease in snow water equivalent (SWE) in northern Europe. This concurs with the negative interannual correlation between SWE and winter temperature in the southern parts of the domain, but not with the positive correlation observed further north and over the Scandinavian mountains. To better understand these similarities and differences, interannual variations and projected future changes in SWE are attributed to anomalies/changes in three factors: total precipitation, the snowfall fraction of precipitation, and the fraction of snowfall that remains on ground (snow-on-ground fraction). In areas with relatively mild winter climate, the latter two terms govern both the long-term change and interannual variability, resulting in less snow with higher temperatures. In colder areas, however, interannual SWE variability is dominated by variations in total precipitation. Since total precipitation is positively correlated with temperature, more snow tends to accumulate in milder winters. Still, even in these areas, SWE is projected to decrease due to reduced snowfall and snow-on-ground fractions in response to higher temperatures. Although winter total precipitation is projected to increase, its increase is smaller than would be expected from the interannual co-variation of temperature and precipitation, and therefore insufficient to compensate the lower snowfall and snow-on-ground fractions. Furthermore, interannual SWE variability in northern Europe in the simulated warmer future climate is increasingly governed by variations in the snowfall and snow-on-ground fractions, and less by variations in total precipitation.

Jouni Räisänen

 
Status: open (until 15 Feb 2021)
Status: open (until 15 Feb 2021)
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Jouni Räisänen

Jouni Räisänen

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Short summary
Interannual variability of snow amount in northern Europe is studied. In the coldest areas, total winter precipitation governs snow amount variability. In warmer regions, the fraction of snowfall that survives without melting is more important. Since winter temperature and precipitation are positively correlated, there is often more snow in milder winters in the coldest areas. However, in model simulations of a warmer future climate, snow amount decreases nearly everywhere in northern Europe.
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