Snowfall and snowpack in the Western U.S. as captured by convection permitting climate simulations: current climate and pseudo global warming future climate uri icon



  • AbstractThis study examines current and future western U.S. snowfall and snowpack through current and future climate simulations with a 4-km horizontal grid spacing cloud permitting regional climate model over the entire CONtinental U.S. for a 13-year period between 2001 and 2013. At this horizontal resolution, the spatiotemporal distribution of the orographic snowfall and snowpack is well captured partly due to the ability of the model to realistically simulate mesoscale and microphysical features such as orographically induced updrafts driving clouds and precipitation. The historical simulation well captures the observed snowfall and snowpack amounts and pattern in the western U.S. The future climate simulation uses the Pseudo-Global Warming approach, taking the climate change signal from CMIP5 multi-model ensemble-mean difference between 2070–2099 and 1976–2005. The results show that the thermodynamic impacts of climate change in the western U.S. can be characterized considering mountain ranges in two distinct geographic regions: the mountain ranges close to the Pacific Ocean (coastal ranges) and those in the inter-mountain west. Climate change out to 2100 significantly impacts all aspects of the water cycle, with pronounced climate change response in the coastal ranges. A notable result is that the snowpack in the Pacific Northwest is predicted to decrease by ~ 70% by 2100. Trends of this magnitude have already been observed in the historical data and in previous studies. The current Pseudo Global Warming future climate simulation and previous global climate simulations all suggest that these trends will continue to the point that most snowpack will be gone by 2100 in the Pacific Northwest for the most aggressive RCP8.5 climate scenario, even if annual precipitation increases by 10%. Future work will focus on extending the current convective permitting results to a full climate change simulation allowing for dynamical changes in the flow.

publication date

  • October 1, 2021

has restriction

  • hybrid

Date in CU Experts

  • February 8, 2022 9:53 AM

Full Author List

  • Ikeda K; Rasmussen R; Liu C; Newman A; Chen F; Barlage M; Gutmann E; Dudhia J; Dai A; Luce C

author count

  • 11

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0930-7575

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1432-0894

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 2191

end page

  • 2215


  • 57


  • 7-8