Spatio-temporal analysis of snowfall events in the spanish Pyrenees and their relationship to atmospheric circulation

F.M. Navarro-Serrano, J.I. López-Moreno


In this study we analyzed the annual and seasonal variability of snowfall events in the Spanish Pyrenees, and the relationship between different weather types and normal (between P30 and P80) and intense (> P80) snowfall events. Data for the hydrological years 2008-2013 were obtained from 10 telenivometers (TNMs) managed by the ERHIN Program network. The TNMs were classified and clustered using principal component analysis (PCA) and k-means classification procedures.

The results indicated that there was significant variability in annual snow depth amongst both TNMs and years, with the eastern TNMs showing the most inter-annual variability. The western TNMs recorded most annual accumulation in the winter months (December, January, February), whereas those located eastward showed more homogenous accumulation over winter, spring, and late autumn. Analysis of the frequency and intensity of snowfall did not show clear spatial patterns. No relationship was found between geographical variables (elevation, longitude, latitude) and the frequency of snowfall greater than 5 cm. However, a relationship between longitude and snowfall greater than 25 cm was found, showing that western areas are more likely to receive heavy snowfall. Snowfall of medium intensity (P30-P80) was associated with weather types from the northwest, north, and west, while for heavy snowfall events (> P80) the dominant types were from the northwest, followed by the north, and to a lesser extent the west. The western TNMs recorded that Atlantic Ocean weather types brought the most frequent snowfall, while the eastern TNMs showed that Mediterranean weather types were more important.

This study indicates that snowfall differs among Pyrenean valleys, with weather types responsible for much of the variability, particularly with respect to normal and extraordinary snowfall events. However, the elevation of the TNMs may have had an effect, necessitating further research to enable quantification of the effects of snowfall gradients in the Pyrenees.


weather types; Pyrenees; snowfalls; snow days; telenivometers

Full Text:



Alvares, D., Samper, J., Vera, M.A.G. 2009. Evaluación del efecto del cambio climático en los recursos hídricos de la cuenca hidrográfica del Ebro mediante modelos hidrológicos. Actas de las IX Jornadas de Zona no Saturada, ZNS, Vol. IX, Barcelona, pp. 499-506.

Arenillas, M. Cantarino, I. Martínez, R., Martínez de Pisón, E. Pedrero, A. 1990. El control de los glaciares actuales en el programa ERHIN. In: La nieve en las Cordilleras españolas 1990/91, Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte - MOPT, Madrid, pp. 215-227.

Arenillas, M., Cobos, G., Navarro, J. 2008. Datos sobre la nieve y los glaciares en las cordilleras españolas. In: El Programa ERHIN (1984 a 2008), Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte - MOPT, Madrid.

Barnett, T.P., Adam, J.C., Lettenmaier, D.P. 2005. Potential impacts of a warming climate on water availability in snow-dominated regions. Nature 438, 303-309.

Beniston, M. 2003. Climatic change in mountain regions: a review of possible impacts. Climate Change 59 (1), 5-31. DOI: 10.1023/A:1024458411589.

Birnie, R.V., Gordon, J.E. 1980. Drainage systems associated with snow melt, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Geografiska Annaler. Series A, Physical Geography 62, 57-62. DOI: 10.2307/520452

Buisan, S.T., Saz, M.A., López-Moreno, J.I. 2015. Spatial and temporal variability of winter snow and precipitation days in the western and central Spanish Pyrenees. International Journal of Climatology 35 (2), 259-274. DOI: 10.1002/joc.3978

Buisan, S. ,López-Moreno, J.I., Saz, M.A., Kochendofer, J. 2016. Impact of weather type variability on winter precipitation, temperature and snowpack in the Spanish Pyrenees. Climate Research, 69 (1), 79-92. DOI: 10.3354/cr01391

Calmanti, S., Dell’Aquila, A., Maimone, F., Pelino, V., 2015. Evaluation of climate patterns in a regional climate model over Italy using long-term records from SYNOP weather stations and cluster analysis. Climate Research 62 (3), 173-188. DOI: 10.3354/cr01256

Corte-Real, J., Qian, B., Xu, H. 1998. Regional climate change in Portugal: precipitation variability associated with large-scale atmospheric circulation. International Journal of Climatology 18 (6), 619-635. DOI: 10.1002/SICI1097-0088(199805)18:6<619::AID-JOC271>3.0.CO;2-T

Cortesi, N., González-Hidalgo, J.C., Trigo, R.M., Ramos, A.M. 2014. Weather types and spatial variability of precipitation in the Iberian Peninsula. International Journal of Climatology 34 (8), 2661-2677. DOI: 10.1002/joc.3866

Cuadrat, J., Saz, M.A., Vicente-Serrano, S. 2007. Atlas climático de Aragón. Gobierno de Aragón, Zaragoza, 222 pp.

Esteban, P., Jones, P.D., Martín-Vide, J., Mases, M. 2005. Atmospheric circulation patterns related to heavy snowfall days in Andorra, Pyrenees. International Journal of Climatology 25 (3), 319-329. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1103

Esteban, P., Ninyerola, M., Prohom, M. 2009. Spatial modelling of air temperature and precipitation for Andorra (Pyrenees) from daily circulation patterns. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 96 (1), 43-56. DOI: 10.1007/s00704-008-0035-3.

García-Ruiz, J.M., Puigdefábregas, J., Novau, J.C. 1986. La acumulación de nieve en el Pirineo central y su influencia hidrológica. Pirineos 127, 27-72.

García-Valero, J.A., Montavez, J.P., Jerez, S., Gómez-Navarro, J.J., Lorente-Plazas, R., Jiménez-Guerrero, P. 2012. A seasonal study of the atmospheric dynamics over the Iberian Peninsula based on circulation types. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 110 (1-2), 291-310. DOI: 10.1007/s00704-012-0623-0.

Gauer, P., Issler, D. 2004. Possible erosion mechanisms in snow avalanches. Annals of Glaciology 38 (1), 384-392. DOI: 10.3189/172756404781815068.

Goodess, C.M., Palutikof, J.P. 1998. Development of daily rainfall scenarios for southeast Spain using a circulation-type approach to downscaling. International Journal of Climatology 18 (19), 1051-1083. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0088(199808)18:10<1051::AID-JOC304>3.0.CO;2-1.

Grünewald, T., Stötter, J., Pomeroy, J.W., Dadic, R., Moreno Baños, I., Marturià, J., Spross, M., Hopkinson, C., Burlando, P., Lehning, M. 2013. Statistical modelling of the snow depth distribution in open alpine terrain, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 17, 3005-3021. DOI: 10.5194/hess-17-3005-2013.

Jenkinson, A., Collison, F. 1977. An initial climatology of gales over the North Sea. Synoptic Climatology Branch Memorandum 62, 18 pp.

Jonas, T., Geiger, F., Jenny, H. 2008a. Mortality pattern of the Alpine chamois: the influence of snow meteorological factors. Annals of Glaciology 49, 56-62.

Jonas, T., Rixen, C., Sturm, M., Stöckli, V. 2008b. How alpine plant grow this linked to snow cover and climate variability. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciencies 113 (G3). DOI: 10.1029/2007JG000680.

Jones P.D., Hulme, M., Briffa, K.R. 1993. A comparison of Lamb circulation types with an objective classification scheme. International Journal of Climatology 13 (6), 655-663. DOI: 10.1002/joc.3370130606.

Lasanta, T., Laguna, M., Vicente-Serrano, S.M. 2007. Do tourism-based ski resorts contribute to the homogeneous development of the Mediterranean mountains? A case study in the Central Spanish Pyrenees. Tourism Management 28 (5), 1326-1339.

López-Moreno, J.I. 2005. Recent variations of snowpack depth in the Central Spanish Pyrenees. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 37 (2), 253-260. DOI: 10.1657/1523-0430(2005)037[0253:RVOSDI]2.0.CO;2.

López-Moreno, J.I., García-Ruiz, J.M. 2004. Influence of snow accumulation and snowmelt on streamflow in the central Spanish Pyrenees. Hydrological Sciences Journal 49 (5), 787-802.

López-Moreno, J.I., Vicente-Serrano, S.M. 2007. Atmospheric circulation influence on the interannual variability of snow pack in the Spanish Pyrenees during the second half of the 20th century. Nordic Hydrology 38 (1), 33-44. DOI: 10.2166/nh.2007.030.

López-Moreno, J.I., Beguería, S., García-Ruiz, J.M. 2002. Influence of the Yesa reservoir on floods of the Aragón River, central Spanish Pyrenees. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 6 (4), 753-762.

López-Moreno, J.I., Beguería, S., García-Ruiz, J.M. 2006. Trends in high flows in the central Spanish Pyrenees: response to climatic factors or to land-use change?. Hydrological Sciences Journal 51 (6), 1039-1050.

López-Moreno, J. I., Goyette, S., Beniston, M. 2008. Climate change prediction over complex areas: spatial variability of uncertainties and predictions over the Pyrenees from a set of regional climate models. International Journal of Climatology 28 (11), 1535-1550. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1645.

López-Moreno, J.I., Goyette, S., Beniston, M. 2009. Impact of climate change on snowpack in the Pyrenees: Horizontal spatial variability and vertical gradients. Journal of Hydrology 374 (3-4), 384-396. DOI: 10.1016/j.hydrol.2009.06.049.

López-Moreno, J.I., Olivera-Marañón, M., Zabalza, J., de Larramendi, R.H. 2016. Snowpack observations from a circumnavigation of the Greenland Ice Sheet (Spring 2014). Cuadernos de Investigación Geográfica 42 (2), 379-392. DOI: 10.18172/cig.2938.

López-Moreno, J.I., Nogués-Bravo, D., Chueca-Cía, J., Julián-Andrés, A., 2006. Glacier development and topographic context. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 31, 12, 1585-1594. DOI: 10.1002/esp.1356.

López-Moreno, J.I., Vicente-Serrano, S.M., Angulo-Martínez, M., Beguería, S., Kenawy, A. 2010. Trends in daily precipitation on the northeastern Iberian Peninsula, 1955-2006. International journal of Climatology 30 (7), 1026-1041. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1945.

López-Moreno, J.I., Goyette, S., Vicente-Serrano, S.M., Beniston, M. 2011. Effects of climate change on the intensity and frequency of heavy snowfall events in the Pyrenees. Climatic Change 105, 489-508. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-010-9889-3.

López-Moreno, J.I., Vicente-Serrano, S.M., Zabalza, J., Beguería, S., Lorenzo-Lacruz, J., Azorín-Molina, C., Morán-Tejeda, E. 2013a. Hydrological response to climate variability at different time scales: A study in the Ebro basin. Journal of Hydrology 477, 175-188. DOI: 10.1016/j.hydrol.2012.11.028.

López-Moreno, J.I., Pomeroy, J., Revuelto, J., Vicente-Serrano, S.M. 2013b. Response of snow processes to climate change: spatial variability in a small basin in the Spanish Pyrenees. Hydrological Processes 27 (18), 2637-2650. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.9408.

López-Moreno, J.I., El-Kenawy, A., Revuelto, J., Azorín-Molina, C., Morán-Tejeda, E., Lorenzo-Lacruz, J., Zabalza, J., Vicente-Serrano, S.M., 2014. Observed trends and future projections for winter warm events in the Ebro basin, northeast Iberian Peninsula. International Journal of Climatology, 34 (1), 49-60. DOI: 10.1002/joc.3665.

Maris, M., Giraud, G., Durand, Y., Navarre, J.P., Mérindol, L. 2009. Results of 50 years of climate reanalysis in the French Pyrenees (1958-2008) using the SAFRAN and CROCUS models. In Proceedings of ISSW2009. International Snow Science Workshop, Davos, Switzerland.

Mellander, P.E. Löfvenius, M.O. Laudon, H. 2007. Climate change impact on snow and soil temperature in boreal Scot pine stands. Climate Change 85, 179-193. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-007-9254-3.

Morán-Tejeda, E., Herrera, S., López-Moreno, J.I., Revuelto, J., Lehmann, A., Beniston, M. 2013. Evolution and frequency (1970-2007) of combined temperature-precipitation modes in the Spanish mountains and sensitivity of snow cover. Regional Environmental Change 13 (4), 873-885. DOI: 10.1007/s10113-012-0380-8.

Pino, D., Ruiz-Bellet, J.L., Balasch, J.C., Romero-León, L., Tuset, J., Barriendos, M., Mazon, J., Castelltort, X. 2016. Meteorological and hydrological analysis of major floods in NE Iberian Peninsula. Journal of Hydrology. DOI: 10.1016/j.hydrol.2016.02.008.

Ramos, A.M., Cortesi, N., Trigo, R.M. 2015. Circulation weather types and spatial variability of daily precipitation in the Iberian Peninsula. Frontiers in Earth Science 2, 25 DOI: 10.3389/feart.2014.00025.

Revuelto, J., López-Moreno, J.I., Azorin-Molina, C. ,Zabalza, J., Arguedas, G., Vicente-Serrano, S.M. 2014. Mapping the annual evolution of snow depth in a small catchment in the Pyrenees using the long-range terrestrial laser scanning. Journal of Maps 10 (3), 379-393. DOI: 10.1080/17445647.2013.869268.

Richman, M.B. 1986. Rotation of principal components. Journal of Climatology 6 (3), 293-335. DOI: 10.1002/joc.3370060305.

Ryan, W.A., Doesken, N.J., Fassnacht, S.R. 2008. Evaluation of ultrasonic snow depth sensors for US snow measurements. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology 25 (5), 667-684. DOI: 10.1175/2007JTECHA947.1.

Spellman, G. 2000. The application of an objective weather-typing system to the Iberian peninsula. Weather 55, 375-385. DOI: 10.1002/j.1477-8696.2000.tb04023.x.

Trigo, R.M., Da Camara, J.P. 2000. Circulation weather types and their influence on the precipitation regime in Portugal. International Journal of Climatology 20 (13), 1559-1581. DOI: 10.1002/1097-0088(20001115)20:13<1559::AID-JOC555>3.0CO;2-5.

Uhlmann, B., Goyette, S., Beniston, M. 2009. Sensitivity analysis of snow patterns in Swiss ski resorts to shifts in temperature precipitation and humidity under condition of climate change. International Journal of Climatology 29 (8), 1048-1055. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1786.

Vicente-Serrano, S.M., López-Moreno J.I. 2006. Influence of atmospheric circulation at different spatial scales on winter drought variability through a semiarid climatic gradient in North-east Spain. International Journal of Climatology 26 (11), 1427-1453. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1387.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

ISSN 0211-6820

EISSN 1697-9540