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Effects of Variations in East Asian Snow Cover on Modulating Atmospheric Circulation over the North Pacific Ocean

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  • 1 Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Division of Cryospheric and Polar Processes, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

At least four different modeling studies indicate that variability in snow cover over Asia may modulate atmospheric circulation over the North Pacific Ocean during winter. Here, satellite data on snow extent for east Asia for 1971–95 along with atmospheric fields from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis are used to examine whether the circulation signals seen in model results are actually observed in nature. Anomalies in snow extent over east Asia exhibit a distinct lack of persistence. This suggests that understanding the effects of east Asian snow cover is more germane for short- to medium-range weather forecasting applications than for problems on longer timescales. While it is impossible to attribute cause and effect in the empirical study, analyses of composite fields demonstrate relationships between snow cover extremes and atmospheric circulation downstream remarkably similar to those identified in model results. Positive snow cover extremes in midwinter are associated with a small decrease in air temperatures over the transient snow regions, a stronger east Asian jet, and negative geopotential height anomalies over the North Pacific Ocean. Opposing responses are observed for negative snow cover extremes. Diagnosis of storm track feedbacks shows that the action of high-frequency eddies does not reinforce circulation anomalies in positive snow cover extremes. However, in negative snow cover extremes, there are significant decreases in high-frequency eddy activity over the central North Pacific Ocean, and a corresponding decrease in the mean cyclonic effect of these eddies on the geopotential tendency, contributing to observed positive height anomalies over the North Pacific Ocean. The circulation signals over the North Pacific Ocean are much more pronounced in midwinter (January–February) than in the transitional seasons (November–December and March–April).

Corresponding author address: Dr. Martyn P. Clark, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0449.

Email: mpclark@kryos.colorado.edu

Abstract

At least four different modeling studies indicate that variability in snow cover over Asia may modulate atmospheric circulation over the North Pacific Ocean during winter. Here, satellite data on snow extent for east Asia for 1971–95 along with atmospheric fields from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis are used to examine whether the circulation signals seen in model results are actually observed in nature. Anomalies in snow extent over east Asia exhibit a distinct lack of persistence. This suggests that understanding the effects of east Asian snow cover is more germane for short- to medium-range weather forecasting applications than for problems on longer timescales. While it is impossible to attribute cause and effect in the empirical study, analyses of composite fields demonstrate relationships between snow cover extremes and atmospheric circulation downstream remarkably similar to those identified in model results. Positive snow cover extremes in midwinter are associated with a small decrease in air temperatures over the transient snow regions, a stronger east Asian jet, and negative geopotential height anomalies over the North Pacific Ocean. Opposing responses are observed for negative snow cover extremes. Diagnosis of storm track feedbacks shows that the action of high-frequency eddies does not reinforce circulation anomalies in positive snow cover extremes. However, in negative snow cover extremes, there are significant decreases in high-frequency eddy activity over the central North Pacific Ocean, and a corresponding decrease in the mean cyclonic effect of these eddies on the geopotential tendency, contributing to observed positive height anomalies over the North Pacific Ocean. The circulation signals over the North Pacific Ocean are much more pronounced in midwinter (January–February) than in the transitional seasons (November–December and March–April).

Corresponding author address: Dr. Martyn P. Clark, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0449.

Email: mpclark@kryos.colorado.edu

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