08 Dec 2022
08 Dec 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Change in potential snowfall phenology: past, present, and future in Chinese Tianshan mountainous region, Central Asia

Xuemei Li1,2,3, Xinyu Liu1,2,3, Kaixin Zhao1,2,3, and Lanhai Li4,5 Xuemei Li et al.
  • 1Faculty of Geomatics, Lanzhou Jiaotong University, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • 2National-Local Joint Engineering Research Center of Technologies and Applications for National Geographic State Monitoring, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • 3Gansu Provincial Engineering Laboratory for National Geographic State Monitoring, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • 4State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
  • 5Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central Asia,Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China

Abstract. Rapid climate warming speeds up the solid-liquid water cycle and reduces the solid water storage in cold regions of the Earth. Snowfall is the most crucial input for the cryosphere. However, the potential snowfall phenology (PSP) variability has not been systematically and comprehensively studied. For this reason, we initially proposed three indicators, i.e., the start of potential snowfall season (SPSS), the end of potential snowfall season (EPSS), and the length of potential snowfall season (LPSS), to describe the characteristics of the PSP, then we explored the spatial-temporal variation of those three PSP indicators past, present, and future across the Chinese Tianshan mountainous region (CTMR) based on the observed daily air temperature from 26 meteorological stations during 1961–2017/2020 combined with 14 models data from CMIP6 (the Phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project) under four different scenarios (SSP126, SSP245, SSP370, and SSP585) during 2021–2100. It proved that the SPSS, EPSS, and LPSS could reproduce features of the PSP well across the study area. In the past and present, the potential snowfall season started on October 29th, ended on March 20th, and lasted for about four months and 23 days across the CTMR on average. The rate of advancing EPSS (−1.6 days/10a) was faster than that of postponing SPSS (1.1 days/10a) during 1961–2017/2020. It also found significant delaying by 2–13 days in the starting time, and advancing for 1–13 days in the ending time, respectively, which reduced 1–27 days for the LPSS. The potential snowfall season started later, ended later, and lasted longer in the north and center than in the south. Similar to the past and present, the SPSS, EPSS, and LPSS will vary under four emission scenarios during 2021–2100. Potential snowfall season will start later, end earlier, and last fewer days under the higher emission scenario. Under the highest emission scenario, SSP585, the starting time will be postponed by 41 days in 2100, while the ending time will be up to 23 days in advance in 2100, implying that it will cut down the length by 63 days (about two months), and the length of the potential snowfall season will only last two and a half months in 2100 under the SSP585 scenario. Spatially, the length of the potential snowfall season in the west and southwest of the CTMR will be compressed by more days because of the more delayed starting time and advanced ending time under all four scenarios. The results indicate that annual total snowfall will decrease, including amount and frequency, then reduce snow cover or mass, which finally feedback to the atmosphere in the form of more rapid warming for the lower reflectivity to solar radiation. Our research provides a new direction to capture the potential snowfall phenology in the alpine region and can be easily expanded to other snow-dominated areas worldwide.

Xuemei Li et al.

Status: open (until 10 Feb 2023)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-244', Anonymous Referee #1, 31 Dec 2022 reply

Xuemei Li et al.

Xuemei Li et al.


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Short summary
Quantifying change in potential snowfall phenology (PSP) is an important area of research for understanding of regional climate change present and future. However, few studies have focused on the PSP and its change in alpine mountainous region. We initially proposed three indicators to describe characteristics of the PSP. It provides a new direction to capture the potential snowfall penology in alpine mountainous region and can be easily expanded to other snow-dominated regions.