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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 10, issue 1
The Cryosphere, 10, 329-339, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-10-329-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
The Cryosphere, 10, 329-339, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-10-329-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 10 Feb 2016

Research article | 10 Feb 2016

Snow and albedo climate change impacts across the United States Northern Great Plains

S. R. Fassnacht1,2,3, M. L. Cherry1,a, N. B. H. Venable4, and F. Saavedra4 S. R. Fassnacht et al.
  • 1ESS-Watershed Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1476, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1375, USA
  • 3Geospatial Centroid at CSU, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1019, USA
  • 4EASC-Watershed Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1482, USA
  • anow at: Department of Geography, University of Victoria, David Turpin Building B203, 3800 Finnerty Road (Ring Road), Victoria, British Columbia V8P 5C2, Canada

Abstract. In areas with a seasonal snowpack, a warmer climate could cause less snowfall, a shallower snowpack, and a change in the timing of snowmelt, all which could reduce the winter albedo and yield an increase in net short-wave radiation. Trends in temperature, precipitation (total and as snow), days with precipitation and snow, and winter albedo were investigated over the 60-year period from 1951 to 2010 for 20 meteorological stations across the Northern Great Plains. This is an area where snow accumulation is shallow but persistent for most of the winter (November to March). The most consistent trends were minimum temperature and days with precipitation, both of which increased at a majority of the stations. Among the stations included, a decrease in the modelled winter albedo was more prevalent than an increase. There was substantial spatial variability in the climate trends. For most variables, the period of record used influenced the magnitude and sign of the significant trends.

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We used 60 years of daily meteorological data from 20 stations across the US Northern Great Plains to examine climate trends, focusing on the winter climate. Besides standard climate trends, we computed trends in snowfall amounts, days with precipitation, days with snow, and modelled winter albedo (surface reflectivity). Daily minimum temperatures and days with precipitation increased at most locations, while winter albedo decreased at many stations. There was much spatial variability.
We used 60 years of daily meteorological data from 20 stations across the US Northern Great...
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