Geophysical Research Letters

Oceanic-atmospheric variability and western U.S. snowfall

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Abstract

[1] A study of the influences of interdecadal and interannual oceanic-atmospheric influences on April 1 Snow-Water Equivalent (SWE) in the western U.S. is presented. SWE data was identified at 323 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetrysites) stations for the period of 1961 to 2004 and for 121 SNOTEL stations for the period 1941 to 2004. The phases (cold/negative or warm/positive) of Pacific Ocean [El Niño -Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO)] and Atlantic Ocean [Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)] oceanic-atmospheric influences were identified for the year prior to the SWE data set. Statistical significance testing of SWE data set, based on the interdecadal and interannual oceanic-atmospheric phase (warm/positive or cold/negative) was performed by applying the nonparametric rank-sum test. The results show that in addition to the well established ENSO signal in the northwest, the PDO and AMO influence SWE variability. Additionally, the coupled effects of the oceanic-atmospheric influences were evaluated on the basis of the long-term phase (cold/negative or warm/positive) of the interdecadal (PDO, AMO, NAO) influences and the interannual ENSO. Finally, the coupled effects of the oceanic-atmospheric influences were evaluated on the basis of the long-term phase (cold/negative or warm/positive) of the interdecadal (AMO, PDO, NAO) phenomena. Regions in the west were identified that responded to the interdecadal/decadal climatic coupling. By utilizing the April 1 SWE and the long lead-time approach for the oceanic-atmospheric variables, useful information can be provided to snow forecasters and water managers.

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