Recent declines in western U.S. snowpack in the context of twentieth-century climate variability

American Meteorological Society, Journal of Hydrometeorology
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Abstract

A monthly snow accumulation and melt model was used with monthly Precipitation-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) temperature and precipitation data to generate time series of 1 April snow water equivalent (SWE) for 1900 through 2008 in the western United States. Averaged across the western United States, SWE generally was higher than long-term (1900–2008) average conditions during the periods 1900–25, 1944–55, and 1966–82; SWE was lower than long-term average conditions during the periods 1926–43, 1957–65, and 1984–2008. During the period 1900–2008, the temporal pattern in winter precipitation exhibited wetter-than-average and drier-than-average decadal-scale periods with no long-term increasing or decreasing trend. Winter temperature generally was below average from 1900 to the mid-1950s, close to average from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, and above average from the mid-1980s to 2008. In general, periods of higher-than-average SWE have been associated with higher precipitation and lower temperature. Since about 1980, western U.S. winter temperatures have been consistently higher than long-term average values, and the resultant lower-than-average SWE values have been only partially offset by periods of higher-than-average precipitation. The post-1980 lower-than-average SWE conditions in the western United States are unprecedented within the context of twentieth-century climate and estimated SWE.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Recent declines in western U.S. snowpack in the context of twentieth-century climate variability
Series title American Meteorological Society, Journal of Hydrometeorology
DOI 10.1175/2009EI283.1
Volume 13
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher American Meteorological Society
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Central Branch
Description 13-012; 15 p.
Country United States
State Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming