Some Empirical Evidence for the Influence of Snow Cover on Temperature and Precipitation

Jerome Namias Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093

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Abstract

A case study is made of the effect of snow cover or lack of snow cover on the surface temperature and precipitation in the coterminous United States during winter 1983/1984. Extensive snow occurred in the eastern half of the country early in December 1983; this snow cover appears to have produced substantial reduction in the observed surface temperature, especially during January 1984. This diminution was especially pronounced in the daytime maximum temperatures, presumably due to increase surface albedo. The effect involving anomalous snow cover also shows up in the Great Basin area during February 1984. A quantitative evaluation of the net effect of snow cover is made using errors of temperature specifications from 700 mb patterns formed from stepwise multiple regression equations. Temperature differences as great as 5°C were found over the temperature expected from the large-scale circulation alone. The concomitant effect of increased static stability near the surface may have played a role in suppressing precipitation over the Midwest during the snow cover period.

Abstract

A case study is made of the effect of snow cover or lack of snow cover on the surface temperature and precipitation in the coterminous United States during winter 1983/1984. Extensive snow occurred in the eastern half of the country early in December 1983; this snow cover appears to have produced substantial reduction in the observed surface temperature, especially during January 1984. This diminution was especially pronounced in the daytime maximum temperatures, presumably due to increase surface albedo. The effect involving anomalous snow cover also shows up in the Great Basin area during February 1984. A quantitative evaluation of the net effect of snow cover is made using errors of temperature specifications from 700 mb patterns formed from stepwise multiple regression equations. Temperature differences as great as 5°C were found over the temperature expected from the large-scale circulation alone. The concomitant effect of increased static stability near the surface may have played a role in suppressing precipitation over the Midwest during the snow cover period.

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