Northern hemisphere snow: measurement, modelling and predictability
Putt, D. (2008) Northern hemisphere snow: measurement, modelling and predictability. PhD thesis, University of Reading
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Northern hemisphere snow water equivalent (SWE) distribution from remote sensing (SSM/I), the ERA40 reanalysis product and the HadCM3 general circulation model are compared. Large differences are seen in the February climatologies, particularly over Siberia. The SSM/I retrieval algorithm may be overestimating SWE in this region, while comparison with independent runoff estimates suggest that HadCM3 is underestimating SWE. Treatment of snow grain size and vegetation parameterizations are concerns with the remotely sensed data. For this reason, ERA40 is used as `truth' for the following experiments. Despite the climatology differences, HadCM3 is able to reproduce the distribution of ERA40 SWE anomalies when assimilating ERA40 anomaly fields of temperature, sea level pressure, atmospheric winds and ocean temperature and salinity. However when forecasts are released from these assimilated initial states, the SWE anomaly distribution diverges rapidly from that of ERA40. No predictability is seen from one season to another. Strong links between European SWE distribution and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) are seen, but forecasts of this index by the assimilation scheme are poor. Longer term relationships between SWE and the NAO, and SWE and the El Ni\~no-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are also investigated in a multi-century run of HadCM3. SWE is impacted by ENSO in the Himalayas and North America, while the NAO affects SWE in North America and Europe. While significant connections with the NAO index were only present in DJF (and to an extent SON), the link between ENSO and February SWE distribution was seen to exist from the previous JJA ENSO index onwards. This represents a long lead time for SWE prediction for hydrological applications such as flood and wildfire forecasting. Further work is required to develop reliable large scale observation-based SWE datasets with which to test these model-derived connections.