Impacts of Synoptic Weather Patterns on Snow Albedo at Sites in New England
Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Winter snow in the northeastern United States has changed over the last several decades, resulting in shallower snow packs, fewer days of snow cover and increasing precipitation falling as rain in the winter. In addition to these changes which cause reductions in surface albedo, increasing winter temperatures also lead to more rapid snow grain growth, resulting in decreased snow reflectivity. We present in-situ measurements and analyses to test the sensitivity of seasonal snow albedo to varying weather conditions at sites in New England. In particular, we investigate the impact of temperature on snow albedo through melt and grain growth, the impact of precipitation event frequency on albedo through snow “freshening,” and the impact of storm path on snow structure and snow albedo. Over three winter seasons between 2013 and 2015, in-situ snow characterization measurements were made at three non-forested sites across New Hampshire. These near-daily measurements include spectrally resolved albedo, snow optical grain size determined through contact spectroscopy, snow depth, snow density and local meteorological parameters. Combining this information with storm tracks derived from HYSPLIT modeling, we quantify the current sensitivity of northeastern US snow albedo to temperature as well as precipitation type, frequency and path. Our analysis shows that southerly winter storms result in snow with a significantly lower albedo than storms which come from across the continental US or the Atlantic Ocean. Interannual variability in temperature and statewide spatial variability in snowfall rates at our sites show the relative importance of snowfall amount and temperatures in albedo evolution over the course of the winter.