Near-0 °C surface temperature and precipitation type patterns across Canada

Mekis, Eva; Stewart, Ronald E.; Theriault, Julie M.; Kochtubajda, Bohdan; Bonsal, Barrie R.; Liu, Zhuo

The 0 inline-formulaC temperature threshold is critical for many meteorological and hydrological processes driven by melting and freezing in the atmosphere, surface, and sub-surface and by the associated precipitation varying between rain, freezing rain, wet snow, and snow. This threshold is especially important in cold regions such as Canada, because it is linked with freeze–thaw, snowmelt, and permafrost. This study develops a Canada-wide perspective on near-0 inline-formulaC conditions using hourly surface temperature and precipitation type observations from 92 climate stations for the period from 1981 to 2011. In addition, nine stations from various climatic regions are selected for further analysis. Near-0 inline-formulaC conditions are defined as periods when the surface temperature is between inline-formula−2 and 2 inline-formulaC. Near-0 inline-formulaC conditions occur often across all regions of the country, although the annual number of days and hours and the duration of these events varies dramatically. Various types of precipitation (e.g., rain, freezing rain, wet snow, and ice pellets) sometimes occur with these temperatures. Near-0 inline-formulaC conditions and the reported precipitation type occurrences tend to be higher in Atlantic Canada, although high values also occur in other regions. Trends of most temperature-based and precipitation-based indicators show little or no change despite a systematic warming in annual surface temperatures over Canada. Over the annual cycle, near-0 inline-formulaC temperatures and precipitation often exhibit a pattern: short durations occur around summer, driven by the diurnal cycle, and a tendency toward longer durations around winter, associated with storms. There is also a tendency for near-0 inline-formulaC surface temperatures to occur more often than expected relative to other temperature windows at some stations due, at least in part, to diabatic cooling and heating that take place with melting and freezing, respectively, in the atmosphere and at the surface.

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Mekis, Eva / Stewart, Ronald E. / Theriault, Julie M. / et al: Near-0 °C surface temperature and precipitation type patterns across Canada. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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