Characteristics of Eurasian snowmelt and its impacts on the land surface and surface climate

  • Kunhui Ye
  • Ngar-Cheung Lau


The local hydrological and climatic impacts of Eurasian snowmelt are studied using advanced land surface and atmospheric data. It is found that intense melting of snow is located at mid-high latitudes in April and May. Snowmelt plays an important role in determining the seasonal cycles of surface runoff and soil moisture (SM). Specifically, melting is accompanied by sharp responses in surface runoff and surface SM while the impacts are delayed for deeper-layer of soil. This is particularly significant in the western sector of Eurasia. On interannual timescales, the responses of various surface parameters to snowmelt in the same month are rather significant. However, the persistence of surface SM anomalies is weak due to the strong soil evaporation anomalies and surplus of surface energy for evaporation. Strong impacts on the sensible heat flux, planetary boundary layer height and precipitation in the next month following the melting of snow are identified in west Russia and Siberia. Downward propagation of surface SM anomalies is observed and a positive evaporation–convection feedback is identified in west Russia. However, the subsequent impacts on the local convective precipitation in late spring-summer and its contribution to the total precipitation are seemingly weak. The atmospheric water vapor convergence has strong control over the total precipitation anomalies. Overall, snowmelt-produced SM anomalies are not found to significantly impact the late spring-summer local climate anomalies in Northern Eurasia. Therefore, the delayed remote-responses of atmospheric circulation and climate to the melting of Eurasian snow may be only possible near the melting period.


Eurasian snowmelt GLDAS Hydrological effects Climate anomalies Atmospheric circulation 



This study is jointly supported by The Chinese University of Hong Kong—Focused Innovations Scheme (#1907001) and a Hong Kong Research Grants Council Grant (CUHK403612). The appointment of NCL at the Chinese University of Hong Kong is supported by the AXA Research Fund. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on the manuscript and also to the editor for the help with the review process.


  1. Allen RJ, Zender CS (2010) Effects of continental-scale snow albedo anomalies on the wintertime Arctic oscillation. J Geophys Res 115:D23105. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen RJ, Zender CS (2011a) Forcing of the Arctic Oscillation by Eurasian snow cover. J Clim 24(24):6528–6539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen RJ, Zender CS (2011b) The role of eastern Siberian snow and soil moisture anomalies in quasi-biennial persistence of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations. J Geophys Res Atmos 116:D16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bamzai AS, Shukla J (1999) Relation between Eurasian snow cover, snow depth, and the Indian summer monsoon: an observational study. J Clim 12:3117–3132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barnett TP, Dümenil L, Schlese U, Roeckner E, Latif M (1989) The effect of Eurasian snow cover on regional and global climate variations. J Atmos Sci 46(5):661–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Becker BD, Slingo JM, Ferranti L, Molteni F (2001) Seasonal predictability of the Indian summer monsoon: what role do land surface conditions play? Mausam 52(1):175–190Google Scholar
  7. Betts AK, Ball JH, Beljaars ACM, Miller MJ, Viterbo PA (1996) The land surface–atmosphere interaction: a review based on observational and global modeling perspectives. J Geophys Res 101:7209–7225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clark MP, Serreze MC, Robinson DA (1999) Atmospheric controls on Eurasian snow extent. Int J Climatol 19:27–40.<27::AID-JOC346>3.0.CO;2-N CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen J, Entekhabi D (1999) Eurasian snow cover variability and Northern Hemisphere climate predictability. Geophys Res Lett 26(3):345–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen J, Entekhabi D (2001) The influence of snow cover on Northern Hemisphere climate variability. Atmos Ocean 39(1):35–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cohen J, Rind D (1991) The effect of snow cover on the climate. J Clim 4(7):689–706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen J, Furtado JC, Justin J, Mathew B, David W, Entekhabi D (2014) Linking Siberian snow cover to precursors of stratospheric variability. J Clim 27:5422–5432. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Corti S, Molteni F, Brankovic C (2000) Predictability of snow depth anomalies over Eurasia and associated circulation patterns. Quart J R Meteorol Soc 126:241–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dai Y, Zeng X, Dickinson RE, Baker I, Bonan G, Bosilovich M, Oleson K (2003) The common land model (CLM). Bull Am Meteorol Soc 84:1013–1023. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dash SK, Singh GP, Shekhar MS, Vernekar AD (2005) Response of the Indian summer monsoon circulation and rainfall to seasonal snow depth anomaly over Eurasia. Clim Dyn 24:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dash SK, Parth SP, Panda SK (2006) A study on the effects of Eurasian snow on the summer monsoon circulation and rainfall using a spectral GCM. Int J Climatol 26:1017–1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Delworth TL, Manabe S (1988) The influence of potential evaporation on the variabilities of simulated soil wetness and climate. J Clim 1(5):523–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Delworth TL, Manabe S (1989) The influence of soil wetness on near-surface atmospheric variability. J Clim 2(12):1447–1462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dorigo WA, de Jeu R, Chung D, Parinussa R, Liu Y, Wagner W, Fernández-Prieto D (2012) Evaluating global trends (1988–2010) in harmonized multi-satellite surface soil moisture. Geophys Res Lett 39:L18405. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dorigo WA et al (2013) Global automated quality control of in situ soil moisture data from the International Soil Moisture Network. Vadose Zone J. Google Scholar
  21. Douville H, Royer JF (1996) Sensitivity of the Asian summer monsoon to an anomalous Eurasian snow cover within the Meteo-France GCM. Clim Dyn 12:449–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Entekhabi D, Rodriguez-Iturbe I, Bras RL (1992) Variability in large-scale water balance with land surface–atmosphere interaction. J Clim 5:798–813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fasullo J (2004) A stratified diagnosis of the Indian monsoon—Eurasian snow cover relationship. J Clim 17:1110–1122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Findell KL, Eltahir EAB EAB (2003) Atmospheric controls on soil moisture–boundary layer interactions. Part I: framework development. J Hydrometeor 4:552–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fletcher CG, Kushner PJ, Cohen J (2007) Stratospheric control of the extratropical circulation response to surface forcing. Geophys Res Lett 34:L21802. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gelaro R et al (2017) The modern-era retrospective analysis for research and applications, version 2 (MERRA-2). J Clim 30(14):5419–5454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gong G, Entekhabi D, Cohen J (2003) Modeled Northern Hemisphere winter climate response to realistic Siberian snow anomalies. J Clim 16(23):3917–3931CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gong G, Entekhabi D, Cohen J (2004) Orographic constraints on a modeled Siberian snow-tropospheric–stratospheric teleconnection pathway. J Clim 17(6):1176–1189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Halder S, Dirmeyer PA (2017) Relation of Eurasian snow cover and Indian summer monsoon rainfall: importance of the delayed hydrological effect. J Clim 30(4):1273–1289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hassan AA, Jin S (2014) Lake level change and total water discharge in East Africa Rift Valley from satellite-based observations. Glob Planet Change 117:79–90. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Henderson GR, Leathers DJ (2010) European snow cover extent variability and associations with atmospheric forcings. Int J Climatol 30:1440–1451. Google Scholar
  32. Henderson GR, Leathers DJ, Brian H (2013) Circulation response to Eurasian versus North American anomalous snow scenarios in the Northern Hemisphere with an AGCM coupled to a slab ocean model. J Clim 26:1502–1515. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Iijima Y, Masuda K, Ohata T (2007) Snow disappearance in Eastern Siberia and its relationship to atmospheric influences. Int J Climatol 27:169–177. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Koren V, Schaake J, Mitchell K, Duan QY, Chen F, Baker JM (1999) A parameterization of snowpack and frozen ground intended for NCEP weather and climate models. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 104(19):569–585Google Scholar
  35. Koster RD, Suarez MJ (1996) Energy and water balance calculations in the Mosaic LSM. NASA Tech Memo 9:76Google Scholar
  36. Koster RD, Suarez MJ (2001) Soil moisture memory in climate models. J Hydrometeorol 2(6):558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kripalani RH, Kulkarni A (1999) Climatology and variability of historical Soviet snow depth data: some new perspectives in snow—Indian monsoon teleconnections. Clim Dyn 15:475–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kripalani RH, Singh SV, Vernekar AD, Thapliyal V (1996) Empirical study on Nimbus-7 snow mass and Indian summer monsoon rainfall. Int J Climatol 16:23–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kripalani RH, Kim BJ, Oh JH, Moon SE (2002) Relationship between Soviet snow and Korean rainfall. Int J Climatol 22:1313–1325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Liu YQ, Avissar R (1999) A study of persistence in the land–atmosphere system using a general circulation model and observations. J Clim 12:2139–2153.<2139:ASOPIT>2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Liu YY, Dorigo WA, Parinussa RM, de Jeu M, Wagner W, McCabe MF, Evans JP, van Dijk AIJM. (2012) Trend-preserving blending of passive and active microwave soil moisture retrievals. Remote Sens Environ 123:280–297. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Liu D, Wang G, Mei R, Yu Z, Gu H (2014) Diagnosing the strength of land–atmosphere coupling at subseasonal to seasonal time scales in Asia. J Hydrometeor 15:320–339. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Matsumura S, Yamazaki K (2012) Eurasian subarctic summer climate in response to anomalous snow cover. J Clim 25(4):1305–1317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Matsumura S, Yamazaki K, Tokioka T (2010) Summertime land–atmosphere interactions in response to anomalous springtime snow cover in northern Eurasia. J Geophys Res Atmos (1984–2012) 115(D20):D20107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Matsuyama H, Masuda K (1998) Seasonal/interannual variations of soil moisture in the former USSR and its relationship to Indian summer monsoon rainfall. J Clim 11:652–658CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Meehl GA (1994) Influence of the land surface in the Asian summer monsoon: external conditions versus internal feedbacks. J Clim 7(7):1033–1049CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Meløysund V, Leira B, Høiseth KV, Lisø KR (2007) Predicting snow density using meteorological data. Meteorol Appl 14(4):413–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mioduszewski JR, Rennermalm AK, Robinson DA, Wang L (2015) Controls on spatial and temporal variability in northern hemisphere terrestrial snow melt timing, 1979–2012. J Clim 28:2136–2153. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ohmura A (2001) Physical basis for the temperature-based melt-index method. J Appl Meteorol 40:753–761.<0753:PBFTTB>2.0.CO;2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Orth R, Seneviratne SI (2012) Analysis of soil moisture memory from observations in Europe. J Geophys Res 117:D15115. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pal JS, Eltahir EAB (2003) A feedback mechanism between soil–moisture distribution and storm tracks. Quart J Roy Meteor Soc 129:2279–2297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pomeroy JW, Gray DM, Hedstrom NR, Janowicz JR (2002) Prediction of seasonal snow accumulation in cold climate forests. Hydrol Process 16:3543–3558. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Proulx RA, Knudson MD, Kirilenko A, Vanlooy AJ, Zhang X (2013) Significance of surface water in the terrestrial water budget: a case study in the Prairie Coteau using GRACE, GLDAS, Landsat, and groundwater well data. Water Resour Res 49:5756–5764. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Robock A, Mu M, Vinnikov K, Robinson D (2003) Land surface conditions over Eurasia and Indian summer monsoon rainfall. J Geophys Res Atmos 108:4131. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rodell M, Houser PR, Jambor UEA, Gottschalck J, Mitchell K, Meng CJ, Entin JK (2004) The global land data assimilation system. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 85(3):381–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rodell M, Chen J, Kato H, Famiglietti JS, Nigro J, Wilson CR (2007) Estimating groundwater storage changes in the Mississippi River basin (USA) using GRACE. J Hydrogeol 15:159–166. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Saito K, Cohen J (2003) The potential role of snow cover in forcing interannual variability of the major Northern Hemisphere mode. Geophys Res Lett 30(6):1302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sankar-Rao M, Lau KM, Yang S (1996) On the relationship between Eurasian snow cover and the Asian summer monsoon. Int J Climatol 16:605–6160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Seneviratne SI et al (2006) Soil moisture memory in AGCM simulations: analysis of global land–atmosphere coupling experiment (GLACE) data. J Hydrometeorol 7:1090–1112. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Shen X, Kimoto M, Sumi A (1998) Role of land surface processes associated with interannual variability of broad-scale Asian summer monsoon as simulated by the CCSR/NIES AGCM. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 76:217–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Shinoda M (2001) Climate memory of snow mass as soil moisture over central Eurasia. J Geophys Res Atmos 106(D24):33393–33403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Singh GP, Oh JH (2005) Study on snow depth anomaly over Eurasia, Indian rainfall and circulations. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 83:237–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Swenson S, Wahr J (2006) Estimating large-scale precipitation minus evapotranspiration from GRACE satellite gravity measurements. J Hydrometeorol 7:252–270. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM (2000) Annular modes in the extratropical circulation. Part I: month-to-month variability. J Clim 13:1000–1016.,1000:AMITEC.2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Ueda H, Shinoda M, Kamahori H (2003) Spring northward retreat of Eurasian snow cover relevant to seasonal and interannual variations of atmospheric circulation. Int J Climatol 23:615–629. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vernekar AD, Zhou J, Shukla J (1995) The effect of Eurasian snow cover on the Indian monsoon. J Clim 8:248–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Vicente-Serrano SM, Grippa M, Le Toan T, Mognard N (2007) Role of atmospheric circulation with respect to the interannual variability in the date of snow cover disappearance over northern latitudes between 1988 and 2003. J Geophys Res 112:D08108. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wang AH, Bohn TJ, Mahanama SP, Koster RD, Lettenmaier (2009) DPMultimodel ensemble reconstruction of drought over the continental United States. J Clim 22(10):2694–2712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wang T, Peng S, Ottlé C, Ciais P (2015) Spring snow cover deficit controlled by intraseasonal variability of the surface energy fluxes. Environ Res Lett 10:024018. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wu WR, Dickinson RE (2004) Time scales of layered soil moisture memory in the context ofland–atmosphere interaction. J Clim 17:2752–2764.<2752:TSOLSM>2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wu R, Liu G, Zhao P (2014) Contrasting Eurasian spring and summer climate anomalies associated with western and eastern Eurasian spring snow cover changes. J Geophys Res Atmos 119(12):7410–7424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yang S (1996) ENSO–snow–monsoon associations and seasonal–interannual predictions. Int J Climatol 16:125–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Yasunari T, Kitoh A, Tokioka T (1991) Local and remote responses to excessive snow mass over Eurasia appearing in the northern spring and summer climate—a study with the MRI GCM. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 69(4):473–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Ye K, Lau NC (2017) Influences of surface air temperature and atmospheric circulation on winter snow cover variability over Europe. Int J Climatol 37(5):2606–2619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Ye K, Wu R, Liu Y (2015) Interdecadal change of Eurasian snow, surface temperature, and atmospheric circulation in the late 1980s. J Geophys Res Atmos 120(7):2738–2753CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Yeh TC, Wetherald RT, Manabe S (1983) A model study of the short-term climatic and hydrologic effects of sudden snow-cover removal. Mon Weather Rev 111:1013–1024CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Zhang J, Wang WC, Wei J (2008) Assessing land–atmosphere coupling using soil moisture from the global land data assimilation system and observational precipitation. J Geophys Res 113:D17119. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zhang R, Zhang R, Zuo Z (2017) Impact of Eurasian spring snow decrement on East Asian summer precipitation. J Clim 30(9):3421–3437CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environment, Energy and SustainabilityThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Resource ManagementThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong
  3. 3.Alfred Wegener InstituteHelmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany

Personalised recommendations