AbstractWhile orographically-driven snowfall is known to be important in mountainous regions, a complete understanding of orographic enhancement from the basin to the mountain range-scale is often inhibited by limited distributed data and spatial and/or temporal resolutions. A novel, 90-m spatially-distributed snow water equivalent (SWE) reanalysis was used to overcome these limitations. Leveraging this SWE information, the inter-annual variability of orographic gradients in cumulative snowfall (CS) was investigated over 14 windward (western) basins in Sierra Nevada, California from water years 1985- 2015. Previous studies have not provided a detailed multi-decadal climatology of orographic CS gradients or compared wet-year and dry-year orographic CS patterns, distributions, and gradients across an entire mountain range. The magnitude of seasonal CS gradients range from over 15 cm SWE/100 m elevation to under 1 cm/100 m with a 31-year average of 6.1 cm/100 m below ~2500 m in the western basins. The 31-year average CS gradients generally decrease in higher elevation zones across the western basins and become negative at the highest elevations. On average, integrated vapor transport and zonal winds at 700 hPa are larger during wet years, leading to higher orographically-driven CS gradients across the Sierra Nevada than in dry years. Below ~2500 m, wet years yield greater enhancement (relative to dry years) by factors of approximately two and three in the northwestern and southwestern basins, respectively. Overall, the western Sierra Nevada experiences about twice as much orographic enhancement during wet years as in dry years below the elevation corresponding to the 31-year average maximum CS.
Journal of Hydrometeorology – American Meteorological Society
Published: Oct 25, 2017
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