Snow and the ground temperature record of climate change Public Deposited

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  • [1] Borehole temperature-depth profiles contain a record of surface ground temperature (SGT) changes with time and complement surface air temperature (SAT) analysis to infer climate change over multiple centuries. Ground temperatures are generally warmer than air temperatures due to solar radiation effects in the summer and the insulating effect of snow cover during the winter. The low thermal diffusivity of snow damps surface temperature variations; snow effectively acts as an insulator of the ground during the coldest part of the year. A numerical model of snow-ground thermal interactions is developed to investigate the effect of seasonal snow cover on annual ground temperatures. The model is parameterized in terms of three snow event parameters: onset time of the annual snow event, duration of the event, and depth of snow during the event. These parameters are commonly available from meteorological and remotely sensed data making the model broadly applicable. The model is validated using SAT, subsurface temperature from a depth of 10 cm, and snow depth data from the 6 years of observations at Emigrant Pass climate observatory in northwestern Utah and 217 station years of National Weather Service data from sites across North America. Measured subsurface temperature-time series are compared to changes predicted by the model. The model consistently predicts ground temperature changes that compare well with those observed. Sensitivity analysis of the model leads to a nonlinear relationship between the three snow event parameters (onset, duration, and depth of the annual snow event) and the influence snow has on mean annual SGT.
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  • Bartlett, M. G., D. S. Chapman, and R. N. Harris (2004), Snow and the ground temperature record of climate change, J. Geophys. Res., 109, F04008, doi:10.1029/2004JF000224
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