Obert Tchuem Tchuente
Characteristics of Rain-Snow Transitions Over the Canadian Rockies and their Changes in Warmer Climate Conditions
Julie M. Thériault, Nicolas Leroux, Obert Tchuem Tchuente, Ronald E. Stewart
The southern Canadian Rockies are prone to extreme precipitation that often leads to high streamflow, deep snowpacks, and avalanche risks. Many of these precipitation events are associated with rain–snow transitions, which are highly variable in time and space due to the complex topography. A warming climate will certainly affect these extremes and the associated rain–snow transitions. The goal of this study is to investigate the characteristics and variability of rain–snow transitions aloft and how they will change in the future. Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) simulations were conducted from 2000 to 2013 and these were repeated in a warmer pseudo-global warming (PGW) future. Rain–snow transitions occurred aloft throughout the year over the southern Canadian Rockies, but their elevations and depths were highly variable, especially across the continental divide. In PGW conditions, with future air temperatures up to 4–5°C higher on average over the Canadian Rockies, rain–snow transitions are projected to occur more often throughout the year, except during summer. The near-0°C conditions associated with rain–snow transitions are expected to increase in elevation by more than 500 m, resulting in more rain reaching the surface. Overall, this study illustrates the variability of rain–snow transitions, which often impact the location of the snowline. This study also demonstrates the non-uniform changes under PGW conditions, due in part to differences in the types of weather patterns that generate rain–snow transitions across the region.