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Land Ice and Snow Cover Decline

Snow and ice cover have decreased in most areas across the globe. This trend is especially stark in the Northern Hemisphere where spring snow cover has declined rapidly. Scientists agree, human-caused global warming is the dominant cause.

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Alaska snow coverage is rapidly declining

In Alaska, the 2016 May statewide snow coverage of 372,000 square miles (595,000 square km) was the lowest on record dating back to 1967. The snow coverage of 2015 was the second lowest, and 2014 was the fourth lowest.[4]

Spring snow cover trends and projections

Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent decreased 1.6 percent per decade for March and April, and 11.7 percent per decade for June, over the 1967 to 2012 period.[1] The area of Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover is projected to decrease by 7 to 25 percent by the end of the 21st century, depending on the level of future emissions reductions.[1]

Lake and river ice cover

The limited evidence available for lake and river ice trends shows that ice duration and average seasonal ice cover are decreasing.[1]

In the North American Great Lakes, the average duration of ice cover declined 71 percent over the period 1973–2010.[1]

As for Northern Hemisphere lakes generally, scientists reviewed 75 lakes finding rapid changes in the most recent period studied (1975 to 2005), with freeze-up occurring 1.6 days later per decade and breakup occurring 1.9 days earlier per decade.[1]

Lake-effect snowfalls

Longer ice-free periods can result in more lake-effect snowfalls, a trend that scientists have already observed on the US Great Lakes.[2]

[2]As early as 2003 studies found that, “Records of air temperature, water temperature, and lake ice suggest that the observed lake-effect snow increase during the twentieth century may be the result of warmer Great Lakes surface waters and decreased ice cover, both of which are consistent with the historic upward trend in Northern Hemispheric temperature due to global warming.”[3]

Select a pillar to filter signals

Air Mass Temperature Increase
Arctic Amplification
Extreme Heat and Heat Waves
Glacier and Ice Sheet Melt
Global Warming
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Land Ice and Snow Cover Decline
Land Surface Temperature Increase
Permafrost Thaw
Precipitation Falls as Rain Instead of Snow
Sea Ice Decline
Sea Surface Temperature Increase
Season Creep/ Phenology Change
Snowpack Decline
Snowpack Melting Earlier and/or Faster
Atmospheric Moisture Increase
Extreme Precipitation Increase
Runoff and Flood Risk Increase
Total Precipitation Increase
Atmospheric Blocking Increase
Atmospheric River Change
Extreme El Niño Frequency Increase
Gulf Stream System Weakening
Hadley Cell Expansion
Large Scale Global Circulation Change/ Dynamical Changes
North Atlantic Surface Temperature Decrease
Ocean Acidification Increase
Southwestern US Precipitation Decrease
Surface Ozone Change
Surface Wind Speed Change
Drought Risk Increase
Land Surface Drying Increase
Intense Atlantic Hurricane Frequency Increase
Intense Cyclone, Hurricane, Typhoon Frequency Increase
Intense Northwest Pacific Typhoon Frequency Increase
Tropical Cyclone Steering Change
Wildfire Risk Increase
Coastal Flooding Increase
Sea Level Rise
Air Mass Temperature Increase
Storm Surge Increase
Thermal Expansion of the Ocean
Winter Storm Risk Increase
Coral Bleaching Increase
Habitat Shift or Decline
Parasite, Bacteria and Virus Population Increase
Pine Beetle Outbreaks
Heat-Related Illness Increase
Infectious Gastrointestinal Disease Risk Increase
Respiratory Disease Risk Increase
Vector-Borne Disease Risk Increase
Storm Intensity Increase
Tornado Risk Increase
Wind Damage Risk Increase
What are Climate Signals?