December was warm, with midday temperatures reaching even up to 10°C and some rainfall. We are slowly getting used to the lack of snow, but it would be better, if we had it. Not only for the winter sport enthusiasts: for everyone of us as well. Assoc. Prof. Ewa Łupikasza, Professor of the University of Silesia, explains why snowfall may be of key significance for the quality of our lives.
‘Climate changes and their effects cannot be denied. It’s proven not just by global data, or data from local meteorological stations, but also by the statistics from our Institute’s meteorological garden. They clearly show that the air temperature rises, which strongly affects other climate elements, such as atmospheric precipitation’, says the scientist from the University of Silesia.
Prof. Ewa Łupikasza specialises in studying the relations between the atmospheric precipitation (including its form – snow, rain) and the changing air temperature and atmosphere circulation. She admits that such analyses are complex, because atmospheric precipitation is the most changeable element of weather and climate in time and space. This is due to the fact that it is affected by many factors. It may also take the extreme form of downpour, blizzard, hurricane or heavy rainstorm.
Climate changes influence e.g. the formation of snow cover, which is important from the perspective of the Earth’s energy balance. This is determined by the occurrence of snowfall, which in turn depends on the air temperature distribution in vertical profile between the clouds and the ground surface. If the temperature exceeds 0°C in the entire profile, it rains; if it is lower, it snows. If, however, the temperature changes, that is – if the profile has both temperatures above and below zero in its profile, the likelihood of mixed rain and snowfall increases.
Snow cover is nothing but a white layer covering a certain part of the Earth. It reflects solar radiation which reaches the surface of the planet. Therefore, if there is snow on a large area, a significant part of the radiation is reflected. However, when the snow cover reach decreases, the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the Earth surface increases and consequently transfers heat to the atmosphere. In this way warming intensifies, whereas with the increasing air temperature, time and snow cover occurrence in certain areas are reduced. This mechanism is referred to as feedback. The research subject undertaken by the climatologist is important. Precipitation and its form affect not only the Earth’s energy balance, but also the amount and quality of water resources.
Draughts, heavy rainfalls, extent and period of snow cover occurrence are only some of the important factors from the perspective of water circulation in nature. Moreover, the amount of snowfall and resulting snow cover are related to the possible occurrence of snowmelt floods. Rain and snowfall are also very important for construction, agriculture and road infrastructure management. Due to this, the results of analyses, mainly concerning the snowfall, will be useful in hydrological studies, mostly in modelling flows, research on snow cover and feedback, flood risk, as well as winter sport conditions. The research is performed within the project entitled “Response of snow and rainfall to current climate changes and atmosphere circulation in Europe” (no. 2017/27/B/ST10/00923), led by Prof. Ewa Łupikasza. The project is financed by the National Science Centre.
Małgorzata Kłoskowicz | Section Press
- Assoc. Prof. Ewa Łupikasza, Professor of the University of Silesia, Faculty of Natural Sciences: email@example.com