Natural Resources, School of




Date of this Version



Scientific REPORTS | (2018) 8:9000


Copyright 2018 by the authors.

Open access



Decreasing spring snow cover may amplify Arctic warming through the snow albedo feedback. To examine the impact of snowmelt on increasing temperature we used a 5,000 m elevation gradient in Yukon, Canada, extending from valley-bottom conifer forests, through middle elevation tundra, to high elevation icefields, to compare validated downscaled reanalysis air temperature patterns across elevational bands characterized by different patterns of spring snowmelt. From 2000 to 2014 we observed surface warming of 0.01 °C/a·1,000 m in May (0.14 °C/a at 1,000 m to 0.19 °C/a at 5,000 m), and uniform cooling of 0.09 °C/a in June at all elevations. May temperature trends across elevationally dependent land cover types were highly correlated with each other despite large variations in albedo and snow cover trends. Furthermore, a clear dependency of infrared skin temperature on snow cover mediated albedo decline was observed in tundra, but this was insufficient to influence average diurnal air temperature. We observed negative June temperature trends which we attribute to increasing daytime cloud cover because albedo and snow cover trends were unchanging. We conclude that 8-day and monthly averaged Spring air temperature trends are responding to a synoptic external forcing that is much stronger than the snow albedo feedback in sub-Arctic mountains.