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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-84
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-84
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 14 Apr 2020

Submitted as: research article | 14 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Anthropogenic climate change versus internal climate variability: Impacts on Alpine snow cover

Fabian Willibald1,2, Sven Kotlarski3, Adrienne Grêt-Regamey1,2, and Ralf Ludwig4 Fabian Willibald et al.
  • 1Planning of Landscape and Urban Systems, Institute for Spatial and Landscape Planning, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Science, Technology and Policy, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 3Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss, Zurich-Airport, Switzerland
  • 4Department of Geography, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich, Germany

Abstract. Snow is a sensitive component of the climate system. In many parts of the world, water, stored as snow, is a vital resource for agriculture, tourism and the energy sector. As uncertainties in climate change assessments are still relatively large, it is important to investigate the interdependencies between internal climate variability and anthropogenic climate change and their impacts on snow cover. We use regional climate model data from a new single model large ensemble with 50 members (ClimEX LE) as driver for the physically based snow model SNOWPACK at eight locations across the Swiss Alps. We estimate the contribution of internal climate variability to uncertainties in future snow trends by applying a Mann-Kendall test for consecutive future periods of different lengths (between 30 and 100 years) until the end of the 21st century. Under RCP8.5, we find probabilities between 15 % and 50 % that there will be no significantly negative trend in future mean snow depths over a period of 50 years. While it is important to understand the contribution of internal climate variability to uncertainties in future snow trends, it is likely that the variability of snow depth itself changes with anthropogenic forcing. We find that relative to the mean, inter-annual variability of snow increases in the future. A decrease of future mean snow depths, superimposed by increases in inter-annual variability will exacerbate the already existing uncertainties that snow-dependent economies will have to face in the future.

Fabian Willibald et al.

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Fabian Willibald et al.

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Short summary
Climate change will significantly reduce snow cover, but to what extent remains disputed. We use regional climate model data as driver for a snow model to investigate the impacts of climate change and climate variability on snow. We show that natural climate variability is a dominant source of uncertainty in future snow trends. We show that anthropogenic climate change will change the inter-annual variability of snow. Those factors will increase the vulnerabilities of snow dependent economies.
Climate change will significantly reduce snow cover, but to what extent remains disputed. We use...
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