Articles | Volume 20, issue 2
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 755–770, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-755-2016
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 755–770, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-755-2016

Research article 19 Feb 2016

Research article | 19 Feb 2016

Variability in snow cover phenology in China from 1952 to 2010

Chang-Qing Ke1,2,6, Xiu-Cang Li3,4, Hongjie Xie5, Dong-Hui Ma1,6, Xun Liu1,2, and Cheng Kou1,2 Chang-Qing Ke et al.
  • 1Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Geographic Information Science and Technology, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
  • 2Key Laboratory for Satellite Mapping Technology and Applications of State Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation of China, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
  • 3National Climate Center, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing 100081, China
  • 4Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters Faculty of Geography and Remote Sensing, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
  • 5Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas 78249, USA
  • 6Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing 210023, China

Abstract. Daily snow observation data from 672 stations in China, particularly the 296 stations with over 10 mean snow cover days (SCDs) in a year during the period of 1952–2010, are used in this study. We first examine spatiotemporal variations and trends of SCDs, snow cover onset date (SCOD), and snow cover end date (SCED). We then investigate the relationships of SCDs with number of days with temperature below 0 °C (TBZD), mean air temperature (MAT), and Arctic Oscillation (AO) index. The results indicate that years with a positive anomaly of SCDs for the entire country include 1955, 1957, 1964, and 2010, and  years with a negative anomaly of SCDs include 1953, 1965, 1999, 2002, and 2009. The reduced TBZD and increased MAT are the main reasons for the overall late SCOD and early SCED since 1952. This explains why only 12 % of the stations show significant shortening of SCDs, while 75 % of the stations show no significant change in the SCDs trends. Our analyses indicate that the distribution pattern and trends of SCDs in China are very complex and are not controlled by any single climate variable examined (i.e. TBZD, MAT, or AO), but a combination of multiple variables. It is found that the AO has the maximum impact on the shortening trends of SCDs in the Shandong peninsula, Changbai Mountains, Xiaoxingganling, and north Xinjiang, while the combined TBZD and MAT have the maximum impact on the shortening trends of SCDs in the Loess Plateau, Tibetan Plateau, and Northeast Plain.

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Short summary
The heavy snow years in China include 1955, 1957, 1964, and 2010, and light snow years include 1953, 1965, 1999, 2002, and 2009. The reduction in number of days with temperature below 0 °C and increase in mean air temperature are the main reasons for the delay of snow cover onset date and advance of snow cover end date. This explains why only 15 % of the stations show significant shortening of snow cover days and differ with the overall shortening of the snow period in the Northern Hemisphere.