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Kenneth E. Kunkel
,
Michael A. Palecki
,
Kenneth G. Hubbard
,
David A. Robinson
,
Kelly T. Redmond
, and
David R. Easterling

Abstract

There is an increasing interest in examining long-term trends in measures of snow climatology. An examination of the U.S. daily snowfall records for 1900–2004 revealed numerous apparent inconsistencies. For example, long-term snowfall trends among neighboring lake-effect stations differ greatly from insignificant to +100% century−1. Internal inconsistencies in the snow records, such as a lack of upward trends in maximum seasonal snow depth at stations with large upward trends in snowfall, point to inhomogeneities. Nationwide, the frequency of daily observations with a 10:1 snowfall-to-liquid-equivalent ratio declined from 30% in the 1930s to a current value of around 10%, a change that is clearly due to observational practice. There then must be biases in cold-season liquid-equivalent precipitation, or snowfall, or both. An empirical adjustment of snow-event, liquid-equivalent precipitation indicates that the potential biases can be statistically significant.

Examples from this study show that there are nonclimatic issues that complicate the identification of and significantly change the trends in snow variables. Thus, great care should be taken in interpretation of time series of snow-related variables from the Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) network. Furthermore, full documentation of optional practices should be required of network observers so that future users of these data can properly account for such practices.

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