Drivers and environmental responses to the changing annual snow cycle of northern Alaska
On the North Slope of Alaska, earlier spring snowmelt and later onset of autumn snow accumulation are tied to atmospheric dynamics and sea ice conditions, and result in environmental responses.
Linkages between atmospheric, ecological and biogeochemical variables in the changing Arctic are analyzed using long-term measurements near Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska. Two key variables are the date when snow disappears in spring, as determined primarily by atmospheric dynamics, precipitation, air temperature, winter snow accumulation and cloud cover, as well as the date of onset of snowpack in autumn that is additionally influenced by ocean temperature and sea ice extent. In 2015 and 2016 the snow melted early at Utqiaġvik due mainly to anomalous warmth during May of both years attributed to atmospheric circulation patterns, with 2016 having the record earliest snowmelt. These years are discussed in the context of a 115-year snowmelt record at Utqiaġvik with a trend toward earlier melting since the mid- 1970s (-2.86 days/decade, 1975-2016). At nearby Cooper Island, where a colony of seabirds, Black Guillemots, have been monitored since 1975, timing of egg laying is correlated with Utqiaġvik snowmelt with 2015 and 2016 being the earliest years in the 42-year record. Ice-out at a nearby freshwater lagoon is also correlated with Utqiaġvik snowmelt. The date when snow begins to accumulate in autumn at Utqiaġvik shows a trend towards later dates (+4.6 days/decade, 1975-2016), with 2016 the latest on record. The relationships between the lengthening snow-free season and regional phenology, soil temperatures, fluxes of gases from the tundra, and to regional sea ice conditions are discussed. Better understanding of these interactions is needed to predict the annual snow cycles in the region at seasonal to decadal scales, and to anticipate coupled environmental responses.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Drivers and environmental responses to the changing annual snow cycle of northern Alaska|
|Series title||Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society|
|Publisher||American Meteorological Society|
|Contributing office(s)||Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|