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Snow and Climate: Feedbacks, Drivers, and Indices of Change


Purpose of Review

Highlight significant developments that have recently been made to enhance our understanding of how snow responds to climate forcing and the role that snow plays in the climate system.

Recent Findings

Widespread snow loss has occurred in recent decades, with the largest decreases in spring. These changes are primarily driven by temperature and precipitation, but changes in vegetation, light-absorbing impurities, and sea ice also contribute to variability. Changes in snow cover can also affect climate through the snow albedo feedback (SAF). Recently, considerable progress has been made in better understanding the processes contributing to SAF. We also highlight advances in knowledge of how snow variability is linked to large-scale atmospheric changes. Lastly, large-scale snow losses are expected to continue under climate change in all but the coldest climates. These projected changes to snow raise considerable concerns over future freshwater availability in snow-dominated watersheds.


The results discussed here demonstrate the widespread implications that changes to snow have on the climate system and anthropogenic activity at large.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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We would like to thank Lawrence Mudryk for providing the data to reproduce Fig. 1. We also thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


C.W.T. and A.H. would like to thank the funding from the National Science Foundation grant (#1543268) titled “Reducing Uncertainty Surrounding Climate Change Using Emergent Constraints.”

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Thackeray, C.W., Derksen, C., Fletcher, C.G. et al. Snow and Climate: Feedbacks, Drivers, and Indices of Change. Curr Clim Change Rep 5, 322–333 (2019).

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  • Snow
  • Climate variability
  • Climate change
  • Feedbacks
  • Earth system models