Climate Trends Impact on the Snowfall Regime in Mediterranean Mountain Areas: Future Scenario Assessment in Sierra Nevada (Spain)
Pérez Palazón, Mª José
Pimentel Leiva, Rafael
Polo Gómez, María José
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Snow constitutes a key component of the water cycle, which is directly affected by changes in climate. Mountainous regions, especially those located in semiarid environments, are highly vulnerable to shifts from snowfall to rainfall. This study evaluates the influence of future climate scenarios on the snowfall regime in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, an Alpine/Mediterranean climate region in southern Spain. Precipitation and temperature projections from two future climate scenarios representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 and RCP 8.5, Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (AR5 IPCC)) were used to estimate the projected evolution of the snowfall regime on both annual and decadal scales during the period of 2006–2100. Specific snowfall descriptors of torrentiality are also analyzed. A general decrease of the annual snowfall was estimated, with a significant trend that ranged from 0.21 to 0.55 (mm.year-1) year-1. These changes are dependent on the scenario and region in the study area. However, the major impact of future climate scenarios on the snowfall regime relates to an increased torrentiality of snowfall occurrence, with a decreased trend of the annual number of snowfall days (RCP 4.5: -0.068 (days year-1) year-1 and RCP 8.5: -0.111 (days year-1) year-1) and an increased trend in the annual mean snowfall intensity (RCP 4.5: 0.006 (mm days-1) year-1 and RCP8.5: 0.01 (mm days-1) year-1)) under both scenarios. This enhanced torrentiality is heterogeneously distributed, with the most semiarid region, which is currently the one least influenced by snow, being the region most affected within the study area.