EGU24-11117, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Swiss snow cover in a changing climate: Evaluation of a long-term, high-resolution SWE climatology

Sven Kotlarski1, Sarina Danioth1, Stefanie Gubler2, Regula Muelchi1, Adrien Michel1, Tobias Jonas3, Christian R. Steger4, and Christoph Marty3
Sven Kotlarski et al.
  • 1Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss, Zurich Airport, Switzerland (
  • 2Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT), Bern, Switzerland
  • 3WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland
  • 4Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Surface snow cover is an important and highly interactive component of global and regional climate systems and has already clearly responded to past warming trends in many regions of the world. Moreover, it is a key ingredient for tourism industry, water supply, irrigation, and hydro-power generation in many mountainous and high-latitude regions. Accurate information about the past, present and future evolution of snow cover is therefore of high importance.

In this context, we here present and evaluate a newly developed gridded SWE climatology for Switzerland, available at daily resolution since 1961 and at a 1 km grid spacing. The climatology is based on a variant of the snow cover model of the Operational Snow Hydrological Service (OSHD) of Switzerland, driven by gridded atmospheric input and bias-adjusted towards in-situ snow depth measurements. In accordance with previous works, the analysis shows that the Swiss snow cover has changed strongly over the last decades. The comparison of two climatological long-term periods, 1962-1990 and 1991-2020, in terms of mean September-May SWE and the number of snow days (SWE > 10 mm) within the snow season, reveals a decrease in both indicators over the majority of the country. Low elevations < 1000 m show relative decreases larger than 50% of the mean SWE and larger than 30% regarding the mean number of snow days (about -22 days). The largest absolute difference of mean SWE is found at medium elevations between 1500 and 2000 m with a decrease of about 45 mm (about -26%).

The validation of the new snow climatology indicates a high general agreement with in-situ observations and independent remote sensing products. Larger uncertainties and limitations are found at the highest elevations (> 3000 m). They originate from different sources, such as temporal inconsistencies in the gridded input data of the underlying OSHD snow model or the lack of stations at high elevations that are needed for the bias adjustment of the model. Nevertheless, the new snow climatology is able to provide adequate information on past snow cover for Switzerland as a whole and will, among others, serve as a reference for the development of future snow cover scenarios.

How to cite: Kotlarski, S., Danioth, S., Gubler, S., Muelchi, R., Michel, A., Jonas, T., Steger, C. R., and Marty, C.: Swiss snow cover in a changing climate: Evaluation of a long-term, high-resolution SWE climatology, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-11117,, 2024.