Pattern-based downscaling of snowpack variability in the western United States

Nicolas Gauthier, Kevin J. Anchukaitis, Bethany Coulthard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The decline in snowpack across the western United States is one of the most pressing threats posed by climate change to regional economies and livelihoods. Earth system models are important tools for exploring past and future snowpack variability, yet their coarse spatial resolutions distort local topography and bias spatial patterns of accumulation and ablation. Here, we explore pattern-based statistical downscaling for spatially-continuous interannual snowpack estimates. We find that a few leading patterns capture the majority of snowpack variability across the western US in observations, reanalyses, and free-running simulations. Pattern-based downscaling methods yield accurate, high resolution maps that correct mean and variance biases in domain-wide simulated snowpack. Methods that use large-scale patterns as both predictors and predictands perform better than those that do not and all are superior to an interpolation-based “delta change” approach. These findings suggest that pattern-based methods are appropriate for downscaling interannual snowpack variability and that using physically meaningful large-scale patterns is more important than the details of any particular downscaling method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClimate Dynamics
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Canonical correlation analysis
  • Empirical orthogonal functions
  • Snow water equivalent
  • Teleconnections
  • Water resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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