AbstractSnow plays a critical role in the water cycle of many mountain regions and heavily populated areas downstream. In this study, changes of snow water equivalent (SWE) time series from long-term stations in five Alpine countries are analyzed. The sites are located between 500 and 3000 m above mean sea level, and the analysis is mainly based on measurement series from 1 February (winter) and 1 April (spring). The investigation was performed over different time periods, including the last six decades. The large majority of the SWE time series demonstrate a reduction in snow mass, which is more pronounced for spring than for winter. The observed SWE decrease is independent of latitude or longitude, despite the different climate regions in the Alpine domain. In contrast to measurement series from other mountain ranges, even the highest sites revealed a decline in spring SWE. A comparison with a 100-yr mass balance series from a glacier in the central Alps demonstrates that the peak SWEs have been on a record-low level since around the beginning of the twenty-first century at high Alpine sites. In the long term, clearly increasing temperatures and a coincident weak reduction in precipitation are the main drivers for the pronounced snow mass loss in the past.
Journal of Hydrometeorology – American Meteorological Society
Published: Apr 4, 2017
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