Rain-on-Snow events in Japan as projected by a large ensemble of regional climate simulations

Abstract

Rain-on-Snow (ROS) events can cause severe snowmelt hazards such as river flooding, avalanches, and landslides that have significant impacts on various sectors. The influence of climate change on the frequency of ROS events in Japan was investigated using climate projections obtained from the Database for Policy Decision making for Future climate change (d4PDF). The projected future climate in the regional model simulations showed an increase in the ROS events over the mountainous areas in Hokuriku (Sea of Japan side of Central Japan) and Hokkaido (Northern Japan) regions, where a higher amount of snowfall will still occur in the future. Characteristics of ROS events such as rainfall, snowmelt, and related runoff were also enhanced in these regions. Self-organizing maps (SOMs) were applied using the surface atmospheric circulation data to determine the dominant ROS-related weather patterns (WPs) in the present and future climate. The SOMs showed that some WPs had a significant effect on the cause of the ROS events. The differences in the impacts of climate change between the WPs were evaluated to understand the future changes in runoff and snowmelt associated with ROS events. The SOM analysis suggests that the increase in the occurrence of ROS events and the resultant enhancement in their characteristics in the future-climate projection can be attributed to the changes in the dominant ROS-related WPs (from cyclonic to cold-surge type) corresponding to variations in the freezing point line. These findings can inform water hazard and water resource management plans that aim to withstand regional climate change.

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Acknowledgements

The Database for Policy Decision making for Future climate change (d4PDF), which is produced under the Program for Risk Information on Climate Change (SOUSEI Program) is used in this study. This research is partially supported by JSPS KAKENHI, grant numbers JP “17K18426” and “19H01377” and the Integrated Research Program for Advancing Climate Models (TOUGOU) Grant Number JPMXD0717935561 from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan.

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Correspondence to Masamichi Ohba.

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Ohba, M., Kawase, H. Rain-on-Snow events in Japan as projected by a large ensemble of regional climate simulations. Clim Dyn 55, 2785–2800 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-020-05419-8

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Rain-on-Snow events
  • Regional climate modeling
  • Self-organizing map
  • Snowmelt flood
  • Ater resource
  • Weather patterns