CR 36:203-217 (2008)  -  DOI:

Sensitivity of the snow energy balance to climatic changes: prediction of snowpack in the Pyrenees in the 21st century

J. I. López-Moreno1,2,*, S. Goyette2, M. Beniston2, B. Alvera1

1Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, CSIC, Campus de Aula Dei, PO Box 202 Zaragoza 50080, Spain
2Climatic Change and Climate Impacts Group, University of Geneva, Batelle/D7, Chemin de Drize, 1227 Carouge (Geneve), Switzerland

ABSTRACT: The present paper analyses and quantifies the sensitivity of snowpack to climate change, and assesses implications for snow processes in the central Pyrenees under the climatic conditions projected by a set of 9 regional climate models (RCMs) for the end of the 21st century, under the IPCC emission scenario SRES A2. The methodology was based on comparison of the snow series obtained by simulating the energy balance of a snow surface driven by climatic conditions recorded during the period from 1996 to 2006, with snow series obtained by simulations for the same period that included various changes in magnitude for each of the climatic drivers (sensitivity analysis); and the changes projected by the RCMs to the end of the 21st century. Results showed a marked sensitivity of snowpack duration and thickness to shifts in temperature, precipitation and solar radiation. RCMs suggest that the most significant changes expected in the study area are related to temperature, which is the main parameter responsible for the predicted changes in future snow processes. A large coherence was found among the simulations made using the projections of the 9 regional climate models. Comparison with respect to current conditions indicated a decrease of 50 to 60% in maximum snow water equivalent, the occurrence at least 1 mo earlier of the maximum snow water equivalent, and a reduction in the duration of the snowpack by around 2 mo. In addition, the 3 snow parameters will be subject to a marked increase in inter-annual variability compared to the observed conditions.

KEY WORDS: Snow · Snow energy balance · SEB · Climate change · Regional climate models · RCMs · Pyrenees

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Cite this article as: López Moreno JI, Goyette S, Beniston M, Alvera B (2008) Sensitivity of the snow energy balance to climatic changes: prediction of snowpack in the Pyrenees in the 21st century. Clim Res 36:203-217.

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