Seasonal variability of shallow cumuliform snowfall: A CloudSat perspective

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Cumuliform snowfall seasonal variability is studied using a multi-year CloudSat snowfall rate and cloud classification retrieval dataset. Microwave radiometer sea ice concentration datasets are also utilized to illustrate the intimate link between oceanic cumuliform snowfall production and decreased sea ice coverage. Three metrics are calculated to illustrate seasonal cumuliform snowfall signatures: (a) cumuliform snowfall frequency of occurrence, (b) mean cumuliform snowfall rate, and (c) fraction of snowfall attributed to cumuliform snowfall events. Distinct seasonal cumuliform snowfall cycles are observed over the Northern Hemispheric oceans. Cumuliform snowfall frequency of occurrence (mean snowfall rate) peaks in months SON (DJF) at most latitudes. Maximum mean cumuliform snowfall rates exceed 300 mm/year in various North Atlantic Ocean locations, with DJF exhibiting the largest areal extent of higher snowfall rates. Cumuliform snow occurrence fraction frequently exceeds 0.5, but regional seasonal sensitivity is observed where transient sea ice coverage exists. Annual snowfall rate fraction attributed to cumuliform snow does not vary appreciably during SON, DJF and MAM north of ∼70°N, but seasonal zonal variability is evident south of this latitudinal threshold. Land cumuliform snowfall features do not universally display strong seasonal signals. Southern Hemisphere seasonal results indicate a strong mean cumuliform snowfall rate maximum (minimum) in JJA (DJF) accompanied by a seasonal latitudinal shift in the snowfall rate peak. Maximum regional snowfall rates exceed 300 mm/year over a broader area compared to the Northern Hemisphere. Cumuliform snowfall production is again strongly linked to seasonal sea ice coverage. Southern Hemispheric cumuliform snowfall occurrence and snowfall rate fraction seasonality is not as obvious as in the Northern Hemisphere, but some latitudinal zones experience ∼5–20% seasonal variability in these quantities. Typical cumuliform snowfall fractions range from 0.4 to 0.6 in the prominent cumuliform snowfall belt covering most of the Southern Ocean. Some subtle seasonal cumuliform snowfall signatures are observed over Antarctica.

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© 2018 Royal Meteorological Society. Publisher’s version of record:

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Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society