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Regional Analysis and Simulation of NE US Snowfall

PI: John Krasting
Institution: Rutgers University
Abstract:
Projections of the Earth's climate for the 21st century indicate that both globally-averaged temperature and globally-averaged precipitation will increase. These changes, however, have a competing effect on the potential change in snowfall for the coming century. Using simulations performed with the GFDL CM2.1 coupled atmosphere-ocean global climate model, the individual effects of temperature changes and precipitation changes are isolated and their interplay is examined with respect to changes in monthly snowfall in eastern North America. Results indicate that the effects of increased temperatures outweigh precipitation increases and are the dominant contribution toward negative monthly snowfall trends throughout the snowfall season in southern locations in the region of interest. The same mechanism is present during the fall and spring transition seasons at more northern regions, with the exception of mid-winter where increases in precipitation translate into positive monthly snowfall trends. Examination of 24-hour snowfall events in the northern regions reveals the coexistence of increasing numbers of large (> 20 cm) events and decreasing annual snowfall totals, thus indicating that precipitation increases at higher latitudes contribute to the possibility of larger snowfall events where it is sufficiently cold. The projected changes in precipitation are associated with a strengthening of the hydrologic cycle during the 21st century.
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