Climate Science

Less Snow in the Arctic

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Science  16 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6109, pp. 864
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6109.864-d

At high northern latitudes, the amount and timing of snow melt in spring have important consequences; for example, for water availability, climate, and ecosystem processes. However, snow cover in these regions varies widely in time and space, complicating monitoring efforts. Derksen and Brown used a weekly snow chart time series produced by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since 1967, mostly from satellite data, to analyze trends in snow cover in the Arctic during spring. For May and June, the record shows statistically significant reductions in snow cover for both North America and Eurasia. Snow cover loss accelerated since around 2000, with record lows set in the past 5 years. Overall, snow cover over Northern Hemisphere land areas in June between 1979 and 2011 has been lost at a rate of 17.8% per decade. These losses exceed those projected by state-of-the-art models and are also larger than sea ice losses (10.6% per decade since 1979). The results contribute to the emerging evidence for an accelerated response at high latitudes to global warming.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L19504 (2012).

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