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A Climatology of Rain-on-Snow Events for Norway

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  • 1 Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
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Abstract

Rain-on-snow (ROS) events are multivariate hydrometeorological phenomena that require a combination of rain and snowpack, with complex processes occurring on and within the snowpack. Impacts include floods and landslides, and rain may freeze within the snowpack or on bare ground, potentially affecting vegetation, wildlife, and permafrost. ROS events occur mainly in high-latitude and mountainous areas, where sparse observational networks hinder accurate quantification—as does a scale mismatch between coarse-resolution (50–100 km) reanalysis products and localized events. Variability in the rain–snow temperature threshold and temperature sensitivity of snowmelt adds additional uncertainty. Here the high-resolution (1 km) seNorge hydrometeorological dataset, capturing complex topography and drainage networks, is utilized to produce the first large-scale climatology of ROS events for mainland Norway. For daily data spanning 1957–2016, suitable rain and snowpack thresholds for defining ROS events are applied to construct ROS climatologies for 1961–90 and 1981–2010 and to investigate trends. Differing ROS characteristics are found, reflecting Norway’s diverse climates. Relative to 1961–90, events in the 1981–2010 period decrease most in the southwest low elevations in winter, southeast in spring, and north in summer (consistent with less snow cover in a warming climate) and increase most in the southwest high elevations, central mountains, and north in winter–spring (consistent with increased precipitation and/or more snow falling as rain in a warming climate). Winter–spring events also broadly correlate with the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the Scandinavia pattern—and more so with the Arctic Oscillation, particularly in the southern mountain region where long-term ROS trends are significant (+0.50 and +0.33 daily ROS counts per kilometer squared per decade for winter and spring).

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0529.s1.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Pardeep Pall, pardeep.pall@geo.uio.no

Abstract

Rain-on-snow (ROS) events are multivariate hydrometeorological phenomena that require a combination of rain and snowpack, with complex processes occurring on and within the snowpack. Impacts include floods and landslides, and rain may freeze within the snowpack or on bare ground, potentially affecting vegetation, wildlife, and permafrost. ROS events occur mainly in high-latitude and mountainous areas, where sparse observational networks hinder accurate quantification—as does a scale mismatch between coarse-resolution (50–100 km) reanalysis products and localized events. Variability in the rain–snow temperature threshold and temperature sensitivity of snowmelt adds additional uncertainty. Here the high-resolution (1 km) seNorge hydrometeorological dataset, capturing complex topography and drainage networks, is utilized to produce the first large-scale climatology of ROS events for mainland Norway. For daily data spanning 1957–2016, suitable rain and snowpack thresholds for defining ROS events are applied to construct ROS climatologies for 1961–90 and 1981–2010 and to investigate trends. Differing ROS characteristics are found, reflecting Norway’s diverse climates. Relative to 1961–90, events in the 1981–2010 period decrease most in the southwest low elevations in winter, southeast in spring, and north in summer (consistent with less snow cover in a warming climate) and increase most in the southwest high elevations, central mountains, and north in winter–spring (consistent with increased precipitation and/or more snow falling as rain in a warming climate). Winter–spring events also broadly correlate with the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the Scandinavia pattern—and more so with the Arctic Oscillation, particularly in the southern mountain region where long-term ROS trends are significant (+0.50 and +0.33 daily ROS counts per kilometer squared per decade for winter and spring).

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0529.s1.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Pardeep Pall, pardeep.pall@geo.uio.no

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