In a previous study Pons et al. (Clim Res 54(3):197–207, 2010. doi:10.3354/cr01117g) reported a significant decreasing trend of snowfall occurrence in the Northern Iberian Peninsula since the mid 70s. The study was based on observations of annual snowfall frequency (measured as the annual number of snowfall days NSD) from a network of 33 stations ranging from 60 to 1350 m. In the present work we analyze the skill of Regional Climate Models (RCMs) to reproduce this trend for the period 1961–2000 (using both reanalysis- and historical GCM-driven boundary conditions) and the trend and the associated uncertainty of the regional future projections obtained under the A1B scenario for the first half of the twenty-first century. In particular, we consider the regional simulation dataset from the EU-funded ENSEMBLES project, consisting of thirteen state-of-the-art RCMs run at 25 km resolution over Europe. While ERA40 severely underestimates both the mean NSD and its observed trend (−2.2 days/decade), the corresponding RCM simulations driven by the reanalysis appropriately capture the interannual variability and trends of the observed NSD (trends ranging from −3.4 to −0.7, −2.1 days/decade for the ensemble mean). The results driven by the GCM historical runs are quite variable, with trends ranging from −8.5 to 0.2 days/decade (−1.5 days/decade for the ensemble mean), and the greatest uncertainty by far being associated with the particular GCM used. Finally, the trends for the future 2011–2050 A1B runs are more consistent and significant, ranging in this case from −3.7 to −0.5 days/decade (−2.0 days/decade for the ensemble mean), indicating a future significant decreasing trend. These trends are mainly determined by the increasing temperatures, as indicated by the interannual correlation between temperature and NSD (−0.63 in the observations), which is preserved in both ERA40- and GCM-driven simulations.
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This research has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreements 606799 (INTACT Project). The RCM simulations used in this study were obtained from the European Union-funded FP6 Integrated Project ENSEMBLES (Contract No. 505539). The authors are grateful to the Spanish Meteorological State Agency (AEMET) for providing us with partial support and the necessary data for this work, and to two anonymous reviewers, who provided insightful comments that greatly improved the original manuscript.
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Conflict of interest
The work complies with the Ethical Rules applied by this journal and has not been submitted (or published previously) to other journal. All the authors included have contributed to this work, both in the development and in the interpretation of the scientific results.
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