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Modeled Climate Responses to Realistic Extremes of Northern Hemisphere Spring and Summer Snow Anomalies

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • | 2 China Innovation Center of Ocean and Atmosphere System, Zhuhai Fudan Innovation Research Institute, Zhuhai, China
  • | 3 Center for Monsoon System Research, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Joint Center for Global Change Studies, Beijing, China
  • | 4 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • | 5 School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China
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Abstract

Northern Hemisphere (NH) snow cover extent (SCE) has diminished in spring and early summer since the 1960s. Historical simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) estimated about half as much NH SCE reduction as observed, and thus underestimated the associated climate responses. This study investigates atmospheric responses to realistic decreasing snow anomalies using multiple ensemble transient integrations of climate models forced by observed light and heavy NH snow cover years, specifically satellite-based observations of NH SCE and snow water equivalent from March to August in 1990 (light snow) and 1985 (heavy snow), as a proxy for the trend. The primary atmospheric responses to March–August NH snow reduction are decreased soil moisture, increased surface air temperature, general tropospheric warming in the extratropics and the Arctic, increased geopotential heights, and weakening of the midlatitude jet stream and eddy kinetic energy. The localized response is maintained by persistent increased diabatic heating due to reduced snow anomalies and resulting soil moisture drying, and the remote atmospheric response results partly from horizontal propagation of stationary Rossby wave energy and also from a transient eddy feedback mechanism. In summer, atmospheric responses are significant in both the Arctic and the tropics and are mostly induced by contemporaneous snow forcing, but also by the summer soil moisture dry anomaly associated with early snow melting.

Corresponding author: Prof. Qigang Wu, qigangwu@fudan.edu.cn

Abstract

Northern Hemisphere (NH) snow cover extent (SCE) has diminished in spring and early summer since the 1960s. Historical simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) estimated about half as much NH SCE reduction as observed, and thus underestimated the associated climate responses. This study investigates atmospheric responses to realistic decreasing snow anomalies using multiple ensemble transient integrations of climate models forced by observed light and heavy NH snow cover years, specifically satellite-based observations of NH SCE and snow water equivalent from March to August in 1990 (light snow) and 1985 (heavy snow), as a proxy for the trend. The primary atmospheric responses to March–August NH snow reduction are decreased soil moisture, increased surface air temperature, general tropospheric warming in the extratropics and the Arctic, increased geopotential heights, and weakening of the midlatitude jet stream and eddy kinetic energy. The localized response is maintained by persistent increased diabatic heating due to reduced snow anomalies and resulting soil moisture drying, and the remote atmospheric response results partly from horizontal propagation of stationary Rossby wave energy and also from a transient eddy feedback mechanism. In summer, atmospheric responses are significant in both the Arctic and the tropics and are mostly induced by contemporaneous snow forcing, but also by the summer soil moisture dry anomaly associated with early snow melting.

Corresponding author: Prof. Qigang Wu, qigangwu@fudan.edu.cn
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