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A spatio-temporal analysis of trends in Northern Hemisphere snow-dominated area and duration, 1971–2014

  • Michael I. Allchin (a1) and Stephen J. Déry (a2)

Abstract

Seasonal snow-cover modulates water and energy budgets across large areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Previous research, based on satellite imagery interpreted and curated by the Rutgers University Snow Laboratory, has identified significant negative and positive trends in annual snow-covered duration and area at hemispheric and continental scales between 1971 and 2014. This study uses the same dataset to generate more detailed descriptions of spatial variations in these trends, maps intraannual variations in sign, statistical significance and strength, and quantifies associations with latitude and elevation. It also considers the limitations and uncertainties associated with a binary classification of this type, and the implications for trend magnitudes of adopting alternatives to the conventional assumption of 100% (0%) actual fractional snow-covered area in ‘snow-covered’ (‘snow-free’) spatial units at different stages of the snow-season. This prompts adoption of alternative terminology, referring to ‘snow-dominated’ area and duration. In response to questions about the dataset's veracity raised by some prior studies, it discusses climatological factors of potential relevance in explaining spatio-temporal trend patterns, and considers how biases might possibly have been introduced as a result of extraneous influences.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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A spatio-temporal analysis of trends in Northern Hemisphere snow-dominated area and duration, 1971–2014

  • Michael I. Allchin (a1) and Stephen J. Déry (a2)

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