Trends and spatial variation in rain-on-snow events over the Arctic Ocean during the early melt season

Dou, Tingfeng; Xiao, Cunde; Liu, Jiping; Wang, Qiang; Pan, Shifeng; Su, Jie; Yuan, Xiaojun; Ding, Minghu; Zhang, Feng; Xue, Kai; Bieniek, Peter A.; Eicken, Hajo

Rain-on-snow (ROS) events can accelerate the surface ablation of sea ice, thus greatly influencing the ice–albedo feedback. However, the variability of ROS events over the Arctic Ocean is poorly understood due to limited historical station data in this region. In this study early melt season ROS events were investigated based on four widely used reanalysis products (ERA-Interim, JRA-55, MERRA, and ERA5) in conjunction with available observations at Arctic coastal stations. The performance of the reanalysis products in representing the timing of ROS events and the phase change of precipitation was assessed. Our results show that ERA-Interim better represents the onset date of ROS events in spring, and ERA5 better represents the phase change of precipitation associated with ROS events. All reanalyses indicate that ROS event timing has shifted to earlier dates in recent decades (with maximum trends up to inline-formula−4 to inline-formula−6 d per decade in some regions in ERA-Interim) and that sea ice melt onset in the Pacific sector and most of the Eurasian marginal seas is correlated with this shift. There has been a clear transition from solid to liquid precipitation, leading to more ROS events in spring, although large discrepancies were found between different reanalysis products. In ERA5, the shift from solid to liquid precipitation phase during the early melt season has directly contributed to a reduction in spring snow depth on sea ice by more than inline-formula−0.5 cm per decade averaged over the Arctic Ocean since 1980, with the largest contribution (about inline-formula−2.0 cm per decade) in the Kara–Barents seas and Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

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Dou, Tingfeng / Xiao, Cunde / Liu, Jiping / et al: Trends and spatial variation in rain-on-snow events over the Arctic Ocean during the early melt season. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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