Journal article

Seasonal relationship between temperature, precipitation and snow cover in a mountainous region

An analysis of correlation coefficients for climatological data covering the period 1901-1994 or 1931-1994 for six locations in Switzerland has been made in order to highlight the relationships between temperature, precipitation (rain and snow) and snow in summer and in winter. The results show that colder summers tend to be associated with more precipitation, mainly in terms of the frequency of occurrence of precipitation, but also in terms of its abundancy. In winter, sites located at lower altitudes behave differently from those at higher elevations. At lower altitudes, warmer winters tend to be rainier and to have less snow (only a small part of winter precipitation falls in the form of snow). Above 1000-1500 m, correlations between temperature on the one hand, and precipitation or snow on the other, tend to be weaker than at lower elevations; warmer winters are associated with less snow but also with less precipitation in general, while the relationship between precipitation and snow is stronger. These results confirm that during cold periods of the past, such as Lobben Phase (1400 BC-1230 BC) cold summers were probably linked to frequent and abundant precipitation. These conditions led to increased mortality as well as to population migrations. In terms of potential future global warming if the current temperature/precipitation relationships remain unchanged, then warmer summers will likely be linked to a decrease in precipitation. Higher winter temperatures can be expected to lead to a general decrease of snow and to a decrease in precipitation, but only at higher elevations; warmer winters would conversely be associated with an increase in precipitation at lower altitudes.


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