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Title: Trends in Northern Hemispheric Snow Presence

This paper develops a mathematical model and statistical methods to quantify trends in presence/absence observations of snow cover (not depths) and applies these in an analysis of Northern Hemispheric observations extracted from satellite flyovers during 1967–2021. A two-state Markov chain model with periodic dynamics is introduced to analyze changes in the data in a cell by cell fashion. Trends, converted to the number of weeks of snow cover lost/gained per century, are estimated for each study cell. Uncertainty margins for these trends are developed from the model and used to assess the significance of the trend estimates. Cells with questionable data quality are explicitly identified. Among trustworthy cells, snow presence is seen to be declining in almost twice as many cells as it is advancing. While Arctic and southern latitude snow presence is found to be rapidly receding, other locations, such as eastern Canada, are experiencing advancing snow cover.

Significance Statement

This project quantifies how the Northern Hemisphere’s snow cover has recently changed. Snow cover plays a critical role in the global energy balance due to its high albedo and insulating characteristics and is therefore a prominent indicator of climate change. On a regional scale, the spatial consistency of snow cover influences surface temperatures via variations in absorbed solar radiation, while continental-scale snow cover acts to maintain thermal stability in the Arctic and subarctic regions, leading to spatial and temporal impacts on global circulation patterns. Changing snow presence in Arctic regions could influence large-scale releases of carbon and methane gas. Given the importance of snow cover, understanding its trends enhances our understanding of climate change.

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Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Hydrometeorology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1137-1154
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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