Polar Regions Will See More Snow Over Next Century, Less Everywhere Else
February 23, 2013

Polar Regions Will See More Snow Over Next Century, Less Everywhere Else

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A newly-developed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate model predicts that increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels will lead to less snowfall in most areas of the world — including the United States — over the next 100 years.

In fact, research conducted by Sarah Kapnick of the Princeton University Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) program and Thomas Delworth, a senior physical scientist at the NOAA´s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), forecasts that only the polar regions and the Earth´s highest altitudes will receive more snow over the next century.

“The decline in snowfall could spell trouble for regions such as the western United States that rely on snowmelt as a source of fresh water,” Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research at the New Jersey-based university, reported on Friday.

The AOS/GFDL model revealed that atmospheric CO2 levels could double later on this century, leading to considerable reductions in winter precipitation is most regions. According to Zandonella, in North America, the northeastern coast and the mountainous regions of the western part of the continent will be the hardest hit, with snowfall levels dropping to less than half of their current levels.

“In very cold regions of the globe, however, snowfall will rise because as air warms it can hold more moisture, leading to increased precipitation in the form of snow,” Zandonella said. “The researchers found that regions in and around the Arctic and Antarctica will get more snow than they now receive.”

“The highest mountain peaks in the northwestern Himalayas, the Andes and the Yukon region will also receive greater amounts of snowfall after carbon dioxide doubles,” she added. “This finding clashes with other models which predicted declines in snowfall for these high-altitude regions. However, the new model´s prediction is consistent with current snowfall observations in these regions.”

Zandonella said that the newly developed model is an improvement over past climate representations because it includes more detail about topographical features such as mountains and valleys. In addition, the AOS/GFDL model is high-resolution, allowing it to provide a higher definition model of the Earth´s climate.

The study has been published in the Journal of Climate, a publication of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).