The uneven response of different snow measures to human-induced climate warming

TitleThe uneven response of different snow measures to human-induced climate warming
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPierce DW, Cayan DR
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume26
Pagination4148-4167
Date Published2013/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000320885300012
Keywordsattribution; california; climate change; Climate sensitivity; impacts; mountain snowpack; north-america; precipitation; Snow cover; temperature; trends; variability; western united-states
Abstract

The effect of human-induced climate warming on different snow measures in the western United States is compared by calculating the time required to achieve a statistically significant linear trend in the different measures, using time series derived from regionally downscaled global climate models. The measures examined include the water content of the spring snowpack, total cold-season snowfall, fraction of winter precipitation that falls as snow, length of the snow season, and fraction of cold-season precipitation retained in the spring snowpack, as well as temperature and precipitation. Various stakeholders may be interested in different sets of these variables. It is found that temperature and the fraction of winter precipitation that falls as snow exhibit significant trends first, followed in 5-10 years by the fraction of cold-season precipitation retained in the spring snowpack, and later still by the water content of the spring snowpack. Change in total cold-season snowfall is least detectable of all the measures, since it is strongly linked to precipitation, which has large natural variability and only a weak anthropogenic trend in the western United States. Averaging over increasingly wider areas monotonically increases the signal-to-noise ratio of the 1950-2025 linear trend from 0.15 to 0.37, depending on the snow measure.

DOI10.1175/jcli-d-12-00534.1
Integrated Research Themes: 
sharknado