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CR 69:79-92 (2016)  -  DOI:

Impact of weather type variability on winter precipitation, temperature and annual snowpack in the Spanish Pyrenees

Samuel T. Buisan1,*, Juan I. López-Moreno2, Miguel Angel Saz3, John Kochendorfer4

1Delegación Territorial de AEMET (Spanish State Meteorological Agency) en Aragón, Paseo del Canal 17, 50007 Zaragoza , Spain
2Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, CSIC (Spanish Research Council), Campus de Aula Dei, PO Box 202, 50080 Zaragoza, Spain
3Departamento de Geografía—Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias Ambientales de Aragón (IUCA) (Department of Geography—Environmental Sciences Institute), Universidad de Zaragoza, C/Pedro Cerbuna 12, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain
4National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, Air Resources Laboratory, Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, Oak Ridge, TN 37830, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The annual frequency of the occurrence of 10 discriminated weather types were summarized using a principal component analysis that revealed 4 different prevailing winter conditions affecting the Spanish Pyrenees. Northeasterly and easterly flows lead to dry and cold winters where snow only accumulates on northern slopes and mainly in the central Pyrenees. North and northwesterly flows favor wet and cold winters and an increase of snow accumulation in the western Pyrenees and on the northern slopes at lower elevations. Cyclonic and westerly flows favor an increase in precipitation and snow accumulation in all the Pyrenees at lower elevations and cold winters. Finally, southerly flows are associated with milder conditions and high precipitation in the central sector of the Pyrenees, where snow only accumulates at high elevations. For most stations, there were no significant trends in precipitation or temperature during the current reference climatic period (1981-2010), which was in agreement with the lack of observed principal component trends during the same period. Focusing on the shorter 1985-2010 period for which snow data were available, snow depth at mid-March demonstrated significant positive trends associated with an increase in westerly, southwesterly and cyclonic weather during this period. The results demonstrate that the changes in precipitation, temperature and snow accumulation are clearly related to changes in circulation patterns, which are the main driver of temporal fluctuations in the considered climatologies.

KEY WORDS: Snowpack · Winter precipitation · Winter temperature · Weather types · Temporal trends · Pyrenees · Spain

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Cite this article as: Buisan ST, López-Moreno JI, Saz MA, Kochendorfer J (2016) Impact of weather type variability on winter precipitation, temperature and annual snowpack in the Spanish Pyrenees. Clim Res 69:79-92.

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