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The impact of climate change on the snow cover pattern in Estonia

Author(s): Jaagus J

Abstract

The paper deals with problems of temporal and spatial variability of snow cover duration, of correlation between snow cover and winter mean air temperature patterns and of the impact of climate change on the snow cover pattern in Estonia. Snow cover fields are presented in form of IDRISI raster images. Snow cover duration measured at ca 100 stations and observation points have been interpolated into raster cells. On the base of time series of raster images, a map of mean territorial distribution of snow cover duration is calculated. Estonia is characterized by a great spatial variability of snow cover mostly caused by the influence of the Baltic Sea. General regularities of snow cover pattern are determined. A 104-year time series of spatial mean values of snow cover duration is composed and analyzed. A decreasing trend and periodical fluctuations have detected. Standardized principal component analysis is used for the time series of IDRISI raster images. It enables to study the influence of different factors on the formation of snow cover fields and territorial extent of coherent fluctuations. Correlation between snow cover duration and winter mean air temperature fields is analyzed. A spatial regression model is created for estimation of the influence of climate change on snow cover pattern in Estonia. Using incremental climate change scenarios (2 °C, 4 °C and 6 °C of warming in winter) mean decrease of snow cover duration in different regions in Estonia is calculated. According to results of model calculation, the highest decrease of snow cover duration will be take place on islands and in the coastal region of West Estonia. A permanent snow cover may not form at all. In the areas with maximum snow cover duration in North-East and South-East Estonia, that decrease should be much lower.