We investigated climate change in the annual snow cover period in mountainous areas of central Japan by downscaling simulations of four climate change projections based on a Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) A1B emission scenario using a regional climate model. Our numerical simulation reproduced well the observed snow depths and areas of snow cover. The projected snow disappearance date in all areas occurred earlier in the future climate due to global warming and were substantially earlier in areas of both light and heavy snowpacks in the present climate. The time shift was smaller at areas where the present-day maximum snow depth is around 100 cm and the snow disappearance date is in mid-April. These projected changes in the duration of snow cover were associated with decreasing snowfall and accelerated snowmelt due to increasing surface air temperatures. The effect was interpreted using an idealized model of temporal variation in surface air temperature. Earlier snowmelt causes local enhancement of surface air temperature increases that will have considerable impact on mountain ecosystems.
2015 Japan Society of Hydrology and Water Resources