Projected Changes in Snowfall Extremes and Interannual Snowfall Variability in the Western United States

TitleProjected Changes in Snowfall Extremes and Interannual Snowfall Variability in the Western United States
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2014
AuthorsLute, A. C., and Abatzoglou J. T.
Conference Name82nd Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the Western Snow Conference
Date Published2014
Conference LocationDurango, Colorado
Keywordsclimate change, extreme, snowfall variability, temperature

Projected warming and more variable precipitation will impact snowfall accumulation and melt, with implications for water availability and management in snow-dominated regions. Projected changes in extreme snowfall events, which constitute 20-38% of annual snowfall water equivalent (SFE) in the western U.S., are confounded by projections of more extreme precipitation and the differential temperature sensitivities of snowfall events. Data from 20 global climate models downscaled and bias corrected to western U.S. Snowpack Telemetry stations are used to assess projected changes in extreme snowfall events and annual SFE. Annual SFE is projected to decrease at all stations. In the coldest regions, changes in the distribution of snowfall and precipitation events are similar, with substantial increases in the most extreme events and smaller changes in small and moderate events. In warmer regions, reductions are projected for all snowfall events, however large events will be far more resilient than small and moderate events due to differential temperature sensitivities and changes in precipitation. Variability in annual SFE is projected to increase, particularly in warmer regions, due to fewer snowfall days and the increasing importance of heavy snowfall events. In the coming century, water management will be challenged by reduced and significantly more variable snowpack.