Abstract

This study conducts a detection and attribution analysis of the observed changes in boreal spring snow-cover extent (SCE) for an extended period of 1925–2019 for early spring (March and April) and 1970–2019 for late spring (May and June) using updated observations and multimodel simulations from phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). The observed and simulated SCE changes over the Northern Hemisphere (NH), Eurasia, and North America are compared using an optimal fingerprinting technique. Detection results indicate that anthropogenic influences are robustly detected in the observed SCE decrease over NH and the continental regions, in separation from natural forcing influences. In contrast to previous studies, anthropogenic response in the early spring SCE shows a consistent magnitude with observations, due to an extension of the time period to 2019. It is demonstrated for the first time that the greenhouse gas (GHG) influence is robustly detected in separation from anthropogenic aerosol and natural forcing influences, and that most of the observed spring SCE decrease is attributable to GHG influences. The observed SCE decline is also found to be closely associated with the surface warming over the corresponding extratropical lands. Our first quantification of GHG contribution to the observed SCE changes has important implications for reliable future projections of the SCE changes and its hydrological and ecological impacts.

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