The response of areal snow cover to climate change in a snowmelt-runoff model

TitleThe response of areal snow cover to climate change in a snowmelt-runoff model
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsRango A.
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Start Page232

The cryosphere is represented in some hydrological models by the areal extent of snow cover, a variable that has been operationally available in recent years through remote sensing. In particular, the snowmelt-runoff model (SRM) requires the remotely sensed snow-cover extent as a major input variable. The SRM is well-suited for simulating the hydrological response of a basin to hypothetical climate change because it is a non-calibrated model. In order to run the SRM in a climate-change mode, the response of the areal snow cover to a change in climate is a critical, and must be calculated as a function of elevation, precipitation, temperature, and snow-water equivalent. For the snowmelt-runoff season, the effect of climate change on conditions in the winter months has a major influence. In a warmer climate, winter may experience more rain vs snow events, and more periods of winter snowmelt that reduce the snow water equivalent present in the basin at the beginning of spring snowmelt. As a result, the spring snowmelt runoff under conditions of climate warming will be affected not only by different temperatures and precipitations, but also by a different snow cover with a changed depletion rate. A new radiation-based version of the SRM is under development that will also take changes in cloudiness and humidity into account, making climate-change studies of the cryosphere even more physically based.