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Water 2017, 9(11), 899; doi:10.3390/w9110899

Winter Snow Level Rise in the Northern Sierra Nevada from 2008 to 2017

Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512, USA
Western Regional Climate Center, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512, USA
Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512, USA
Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA
Physical Sciences Division, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 10 October 2017 / Revised: 14 November 2017 / Accepted: 15 November 2017 / Published: 18 November 2017
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The partitioning of precipitation into frozen and liquid components influences snow-derived water resources and flood hazards in mountain environments. We used a 915-MHz Doppler radar wind profiler upstream of the northern Sierra Nevada to estimate the hourly elevation where snow melts to rain, or the snow level, during winter (December–February) precipitation events spanning water years (WY) 2008–2017. During this ten-year period, a Mann-Kendall test indicated a significant (p < 0.001) positive trend in snow level with a Thiel-Sen slope of 72 m year−1. We estimated total precipitation falling as snow (snow fraction) between WY1951 and 2017 using nine daily mid-elevation (1200–2000 m) climate stations and two hourly stations spanning WY2008–2017. The climate-station-based snow fraction estimates agreed well with snow-level radar values (R2 = 0.95, p < 0.01), indicating that snow fractions represent a reasonable method to estimate changes in frozen precipitation. Snow fraction significantly (p < 0.001) declined during WY2008–2017 at a rate of 0.035 (3.5%) year−1. Single-point correlations between detrended snow fraction and sea-surface temperatures (SST) suggested that positive SST anomalies along the California coast favor liquid phase precipitation during winter. Reanalysis-derived integrated moisture transported upstream of the northern Sierra Nevada was negatively correlated with snow fraction (R2 = 0.90, p < 0.01), with atmospheric rivers representing the likely circulation mechanism producing low-snow-fraction storms. View Full-Text
Keywords: atmospheric rivers; California; Nevada; precipitation; Sierra Nevada; snow; snow level; water resources atmospheric rivers; California; Nevada; precipitation; Sierra Nevada; snow; snow level; water resources

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Hatchett, B.J.; Daudert, B.; Garner, C.B.; Oakley, N.S.; Putnam, A.E.; White, A.B. Winter Snow Level Rise in the Northern Sierra Nevada from 2008 to 2017. Water 2017, 9, 899.

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