21st century projections of snowfall and winter severity across central-eastern North America
Friday, 19 December 2014
Statistically downscaled climate projections from nine global climate models (GCMs) are used to force a snow accumulation and ablation model (SNOW-17) across the central-eastern North American Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) to develop high-resolution projections of snowfall, snow depth, and winter severity index (WSI) by the mid- and late 21st century. Here, we use projections of a cumulative WSI (CWSI) known to influence autumn-winter waterfowl migration to demonstrate the utility of SNOW-17 results. The application of statistically downscaled climate data and a snow model leads to a better representation of lake processes in the Great Lakes Basin, topographic effects in the Appalachian Mountains, and spatial patterns of climatological snowfall, compared to the original GCMs. Annual mean snowfall is simulated to decline across the region, particularly in early winter (December-January), leading to a delay in the mean onset of the snow season. Due to a warming-induced acceleration of snowmelt, the percentage loss in snow depth exceeds that of snowfall. Across the Plains and Prairie Potholes LCC and Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC, daily snowfall events are projected to become less common, but more intense. The greatest reductions in the number of days per year with a present snowpack are expected close to the historical position of the -5°C isotherm in DJFM, around 44°N. The CWSI is projected to decline substantially during December-January, leading to increased likelihood of delays in timing and intensity of autumn-winter waterfowl migrations.