Warmer climate: less or more snow?
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Changes in snow amount, as measured by the water equivalent of the snow pack (SWE), are studied using simulations of 21st century climate by 20 global climate models. Although the simulated warming makes snow season to shorten from its both ends in all of Eurasia and North America, SWE at the height of the winter generally increases in the coldest areas. Elsewhere, snow decreases throughout the winter. The average borderline between increasing and decreasing midwinter SWE coincides broadly with the −20°C isotherm in late 20th century November–March mean temperature, although with some variability between different areas. On the colder side of this isotherm, an increase in total precipitation generally dominates over reduced fraction of solid precipitation and more efficient melting, and SWE therefore increases. On the warmer side, where the phase of winter precipitation and snowmelt are more sensitive to the simulated warming, the reverse happens. The strong temperature dependence of the simulated SWE changes suggests that projections of SWE change could be potentially improved by taking into account biases in simulated present-day winter temperatures. A probabilistic cross verification exercise supports this suggestion.