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The effect of slope aspect on the response of snowpack to climate warming in the Pyrenees

AuthorsLópez-Moreno, Juan I. CSIC ORCID ; Revuelto, Jesús CSIC ORCID; Gilaberte-Búrdalo, M.; Jover, Eric CSIC; Esteban, P.; García, C.; Pomeroy, J. W.
Issue Date2014
PublisherSpringer Nature
CitationTheoretical and Applied Climatology. 117(1-2) :207-219 (2014)
AbstractThe aim of this study was to analyse the effect of slope aspect on the response of snowpack to climate warming in the Pyrenees. For this purpose, data available from five automatic weather stations were used to simulate the energy and mass balance of snowpack, assuming different magnitudes of an idealized climate warming (upward shifting of 1, 2 and 3 °C the temperature series). Snow energy and mass balance were simulated using the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform (CRHM). CRHM was used to create a model that enabled correction of the all-wave incoming radiation fluxes from the observation sites for various slope aspects (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW,W,NW and flat areas), which enabled assessment of the differential impact of climate warming on snow processes on mountain slopes. The results showed that slope aspect was responsible for substantial variability in snow accumulation and the duration of the snowpack. Simulated variability markedly increased with warmer temperature conditions. Annual maximum snow accumulation (MSA) and annual snowpack duration (ASD) showed marked sensitivity to a warming of 1 °C. Thus, the sensitivity of the MSA in flat areas ranged from 11 to 17 % per degree C amongst the weather stations, and the ASD ranged from 11 to 20 days per degree C. There was a clear increase in the sensitivity of the snowpack to climate warming on those slopes that received intense solar radiation (S, SE and SW slopes) compared with those slopes where the incident radiation was more limited (N, NE and NW slopes). The sensitivity of the MSA and the ASD increased as the temperature increased, particularly on the most irradiated slopes. Large interannual variability was also observed. Thus, with more snow accumulation and longer duration the sensitivity of the snowpack to temperature decreased, especially on south-facing slopes.
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