Indexed on: 22 Jul '09Published on: 22 Jul '09Published in: Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics
Snow pack characteristics and duration are considered to be key indicators of climate change in mountain regions, especially during the winter season (herein considered to last from the 1st of November to the 30th of April). Deviations recorded in the regime of the main explanatory variables of snow pack changes (i.e. temperature and precipitation) offer useful information on winter climate variability, in the conditions of the winter warming trend already seen in some areas of the Romanian Carpathians. The present work focuses on changes and trends in snow pack characteristics and its related parameters, registered at the 15 weather stations located in the alpine, sub-alpine and forest belts in all the three Romanian Carpathian branches (>1,000 m) over the 1961–2003 period. Changes in the snow pack regime were investigated in relation with the modifications of winter temperature and precipitation having been detected mostly at the end of the twentieth century. A winter standardized index was calculated to group winters over the 43-year period into severity classes and detect the respective changes. Links between the number of snow cover days and seasonal NAO index were also statistically analysed in this study. The general results show large regional and altitudinal variations and the complex character of the climate in the Romanian Carpathians, leading to the idea of an ongoing warming process associated with a lower incidence of snow cover, affecting to a large extent the forested mountain areas located below 1,600–1,700 m altitude. Also negative and weak correlations were found, particularly over the December–March interval, between the number of snow cover days and seasonal NAO index values.