Global snow drought hot spots and characteristics
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Global snow drought hot spots and characteristics

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  • Journal Title:
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
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    Snow plays a fundamental role in global water resources, climate, and biogeochemical processes; however, no global snow drought assessments currently exist. Changes in the duration and intensity of droughts can significantly impact ecosystems, food and water security, agriculture, hydropower, and the socioeconomics of a region. We characterize the duration and intensity of snow droughts (snow water equivalent deficits) worldwide and differences in their distributions over 1980 to 2018. We find that snow droughts became more prevalent, intensified, and lengthened across the western United States (WUS). Eastern Russia, Europe, and the WUS emerged as hot spots for snow droughts, experiencing similar to 2, 16, and 28% longer snow drought durations, respectively, in the latter half of 1980 to 2018. In this second half of the record, these regions exhibited a higher probability (relative to the first half of the record) of having a snow drought exceed the average intensity from the first period by 3, 4, and 15%. The Hindu Kush and Central Asia, extratropical Andes, greater Himalayas, and Patagonia, however, experienced decreases (percent changes) in the average snow drought duration (-4, -7, -8, and -16%, respectively). Although we do not attempt to separate natural and human influences with a detailed attribution analysis, we discuss some relevant physical processes (e.g., Arctic amplification and polar vortex movement) that likely contribute to observed changes in snow drought characteristics. We also demonstrate how our frame-work can facilitate drought monitoring and assessment by examining two snow deficits that posed large socioeconomic challenges in the WUS (2014/2015) and Afghanistan (2017/2018).
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    PNAS 117 (33) 19753-19759;
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