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Projections of Alpine Snow-Cover in a High-Resolution Climate Simulation
Open AccessArticle

Evaluating Snow in EURO-CORDEX Regional Climate Models with Observations for the European Alps: Biases and Their Relationship to Orography, Temperature, and Precipitation Mismatches

Institute for Earth Observation, Eurac Research, 39100 Bolzano, Italy
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Atmosphere 2020, 11(1), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/atmos11010046
Received: 28 November 2019 / Revised: 23 December 2019 / Accepted: 25 December 2019 / Published: 29 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cryosphere in and around Regional Climate Models)
Climate models are important tools to assess current and future climate. While they have been extensively used for studying temperature and precipitation, only recently regional climate models (RCMs) arrived at horizontal resolutions that allow studies of snow in complex mountain terrain. Here, we present an evaluation of the snow variables in the World Climate Research Program Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (EURO-CORDEX) RCMs with gridded observations of snow cover (from MODIS remote sensing) and temperature and precipitation (E-OBS), as well as with point (station) observations of snow depth and temperature for the European Alps. Large scale snow cover dynamics were reproduced well with some over- and under-estimations depending on month and RCM. The orography, temperature, and precipitation mismatches could on average explain 31% of the variability in snow cover bias across grid-cells, and even more than 50% in the winter period November–April. Biases in average monthly snow depth were remarkably low for reanalysis driven RCMs (<approx. 30 cm), and large for the GCM driven ones (up to 200 cm), when averaged over all stations within 400 m of altitude difference with RCM orography. Some RCMs indicated low snow cover biases and at the same time high snow depth biases, and vice versa. In summary, RCMs showed good skills in reproducing alpine snow cover conditions with regard to their limited horizontal resolution. Detected shortcomings in the models depended on the considered snow variable, season and individual RCM. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; MODIS snow cover; station snow depth; Alps; mountain climate climate change; MODIS snow cover; station snow depth; Alps; mountain climate
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Matiu, M.; Petitta, M.; Notarnicola, C.; Zebisch, M. Evaluating Snow in EURO-CORDEX Regional Climate Models with Observations for the European Alps: Biases and Their Relationship to Orography, Temperature, and Precipitation Mismatches. Atmosphere 2020, 11, 46.

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  • Supplementary File 1:

    ZIP-Document (ZIP, 2247 KB)

  • Externally hosted supplementary file 1
    Doi: 10.5281/zenodo.3588775
    Link: https://zenodo.org/record/3550942
    Description: Dataset on Zenodo that contains more auxiliary information and code.
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