Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 117, Issue 1–2, pp 207–219 | Cite as

The effect of slope aspect on the response of snowpack to climate warming in the Pyrenees

  • J. I. López-MorenoEmail author
  • J. Revuelto
  • M. Gilaberte
  • E. Morán-Tejeda
  • M. Pons
  • E. Jover
  • P. Esteban
  • C. García
  • J. W. Pomeroy
Original Paper


The aim of this study was to analyse the effect of slope aspect on the response of snowpack to climate warming in the Pyrenees. For this purpose, data available from five automatic weather stations were used to simulate the energy and mass balance of snowpack, assuming different magnitudes of an idealized climate warming (upward shifting of 1, 2 and 3 °C the temperature series). Snow energy and mass balance were simulated using the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform (CRHM). CRHM was used to create a model that enabled correction of the all-wave incoming radiation fluxes from the observation sites for various slope aspects (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW,W,NW and flat areas), which enabled assessment of the differential impact of climate warming on snow processes on mountain slopes. The results showed that slope aspect was responsible for substantial variability in snow accumulation and the duration of the snowpack. Simulated variability markedly increased with warmer temperature conditions. Annual maximum snow accumulation (MSA) and annual snowpack duration (ASD) showed marked sensitivity to a warming of 1 °C. Thus, the sensitivity of the MSA in flat areas ranged from 11 to 17 % per degree C amongst the weather stations, and the ASD ranged from 11 to 20 days per degree C. There was a clear increase in the sensitivity of the snowpack to climate warming on those slopes that received intense solar radiation (S, SE and SW slopes) compared with those slopes where the incident radiation was more limited (N, NE and NW slopes). The sensitivity of the MSA and the ASD increased as the temperature increased, particularly on the most irradiated slopes. Large interannual variability was also observed. Thus, with more snow accumulation and longer duration the sensitivity of the snowpack to temperature decreased, especially on south-facing slopes.


Climate Warming Pyrenees Flat Area Slope Aspect Snow Water Equivalent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the research projects CGL2011-27536/HID: “Hidrologia nival en el Pirineo central español: variabilidad espacial, importancia hidrológica y su respuesta a la variabilidad y cambio climático”, financed by the Spanish Commission of Science and Technology, and FEDER; ACQWA (FP7-ENV- 2008-1-212250): “Efecto de los escenarios de cambio climático sobre la hidrología superficial y la gestión de embalses del Pirineo Aragonés”, financed by “Obra Social La Caixa”; and “Influencia del cambio climático en el turismo de nieve-CTTP1/10” and CTTP1/12 “Creación de un modelo de alta resolución espacial para cuantificar la esquiabilidad y la afluencia turística en el Pirineo bajo distintos escenarios de cambio climático”, financed by the Comunidad de Trabajo de los Pirineos, CTP. Financial contributions from the Canadian Rockies Snow and Ice Initiative supported by the IP3 Cold Regions Hydrology Network of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canada Research Chairs Programme are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. I. López-Moreno
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • J. Revuelto
    • 1
  • M. Gilaberte
    • 1
  • E. Morán-Tejeda
    • 1
  • M. Pons
    • 2
  • E. Jover
    • 2
  • P. Esteban
    • 3
  • C. García
    • 4
  • J. W. Pomeroy
    • 5
  1. 1.Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC)ZaragozaSpain
  2. 2.Observatory of Sustainability of Andorra (OBSA)Sant Julià de LòriaAndorra
  3. 3.Centre d’estudis de la neu i de la muntanya d’Andorra (CENMA)Sant Julià de LòriaAndorra
  4. 4.Geological Institute of Cataluña (IGC)BarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.Center for HydrologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  6. 6.Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, CSICZaragozaSpain

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