Snow cover hits record lows
6 December 2012
Will Santa Claus one day need wheels for his sleigh? That is still a long way off, but satellite observations are showing a steady decrease in the amount of snow covering the Northern Hemisphere.
A new analysis of the snow cover seen by satellites, such as ESA’s Envisat, shows that there have been record lows in Europe and Asia every June since 2008. Also, three of the past five years have seen record low snow coverage during North American summers. This means that the area under snow in June is now the lowest since satellite observations began about 45 years ago.
June snow cover is found to be decreasing much faster than expected from climate models, and snow is disappearing even faster than summertime sea ice in the Arctic. Satellite results also show that the maximum amount of snow across the Northern Hemisphere is slowly decreasing, while spring snow – particularly towards the North Pole – is melting earlier.
Does it matter if there is less snow and it melts more quickly? Changes in snow mass and area have a huge impact on the amount of water in glaciers, rivers and soils. They are also linked with long-term climate changes.
It may not only be Santa who has to change his life style in the future…