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Spatio-temporal variability and seasonal dynamics of snow cover regime in Estonia

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Climate warming influences highly on snow cover regime in the midlatitudes. Snow cover conditions, in turn, affect human activity very much. The aim of this study was (a) to analyse spatial and temporal variability of snow cover duration, (b) to analyse spatial and temporal variability of the start and end dates of the period with the permanent snow cover, (c) to describe spatial, temporal and seasonal variability of median and maximum snow depth in Estonia and (d) to determine the presence of long-term changes and trends in these parameters during the period 1950/51–2015/16. Time series of daily snow depth at 22 stations for that period were processed in order to obtain reliable estimates of changes in the snow regime. Snow cover data are non-normally distributed, therefore, median and quartile range were used to describe the mean state and variability of snow cover. Only these dates were included into the analysis when snow cover was observed at least on 50% of days in the time series. Trend analysis was made using the Mann-Kendall test and trend values were found using the Theil-Sen’s method. A large spatio-temporal variability of snow cover duration was found. The median number of days with snow cover at the 22 stations was 112, varying between 61 and 130 days. In the coastal regions of Estonia and especially on the western coast of Saaremaa Island snow cover duration has been much lower than in the continental part. The longest snow cover period is observed on uplands in south-eastern and north-eastern Estonia. It was found that, in the average, the period with the permanent snow cover in the continental Estonia begins on 19 December and ends on 18 March. There was a negative trend in snow cover duration due to the earlier snow melting in spring at the majority of stations. The end date of the permanent snow cover has shifted earlier by 10–30 days in 66 years and its duration has decreased accordingly. The maximum snow depth has been recorded on uplands of south-eastern Estonia with the median value 38 cm. There was a decreasing multiannual trend in snow depth from January to the end of March. Changes in snow depth were largest in the end of February and in March when the trend was statistically significant. In the average, snow depth has decreased by 0.5–1.5 cm per decade, i.e. by 2–9 cm throughout the whole study period.

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Correspondence to Birgit Viru.

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Viru, B., Jaagus, J. Spatio-temporal variability and seasonal dynamics of snow cover regime in Estonia. Theor Appl Climatol 139, 759–771 (2020).

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