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Mountain system artificially inflates temperature increases at higher elevations

Date:
January 12, 2015
Source:
The University of Montana
Summary:
While the western US has warmed, recently observed warming in the mountains of the Western US likely is not as large as previously supposed, researchers suggest.
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In a recent study, University of Montana and Montana Climate Office researcher Jared Oyler found that while the western U.S. has warmed, recently observed warming in the mountains of the western U.S. likely is not as large as previously supposed.

His results, published Jan. 9 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, show that sensor changes have significantly biased temperature observations from the Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) station network.

More than 700 SNOTEL sites monitor temperature and snowpack across the mountainous western U.S. SNOTEL provides critical data for water supply forecasts. Researchers often use SNOTEL data to study mountain climate trends and impacts to mountain hydrology and ecology.

Oyler and his co-authors applied statistical techniques to account for biases introduced when equipment was switched at SNOTEL sites in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. His revised datasets reduced the biases to reveal that high-elevation minimum temperatures were warming only slightly more than minimum temperatures at lower elevations.

"Observations from other station networks clearly show that the western U.S. has experienced regional warming," Oyler said, "but to assess current and future climate change impacts to snowpack and important mountain ecosystem processes, we need accurate observations from the high elevation areas only covered by the SNOTEL network. The SNOTEL bias has likely compromised our ability to understand the unique drivers and impacts of climate change in western U.S. mountains."


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Materials provided by The University of Montana. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jared W. Oyler, Solomon Z. Dobrowski, Ashley P. Ballantyne, Anna E. Klene, Steven W. Running. Artificial Amplification of Warming Trends Across the Mountains of the Western United States. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL062803

Cite This Page:

The University of Montana. "Mountain system artificially inflates temperature increases at higher elevations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150112141313.htm>.
The University of Montana. (2015, January 12). Mountain system artificially inflates temperature increases at higher elevations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150112141313.htm
The University of Montana. "Mountain system artificially inflates temperature increases at higher elevations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150112141313.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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