Spatio-Temporal Change of Snow Cover and Its Response to Climate over the Tibetan Plateau Based on an Improved Daily Cloud-Free Snow Cover Product
Using new, daily cloud-free snow-cover products, this study examines snow cover dynamics and their response to climate change. The results demonstrate that the daily cloud-free snow-cover products not only posses the advantages of the AMSR-E (unaffected by weather conditions) and MODIS (relatively higher resolution) products, but are also characterized by high snow and overall classification accuracies (~85% and ~98%, respectively), substantially greater than those of the existing daily snow-cover products for all sky conditions and very similar to, or even slightly greater than, those of the daily MODIS products for clear-sky conditions. Using the snow-cover products, we analyzed the snow cover dynamics over the Tibetan Plateau and determined that the maximum number of snow-covered days (SCD) in a year followed a decreasing tendency from 2003 to 2010, with a decrease in snow-covered area (SCA) equivalent to 55.3% of the total Tibetan Plateau area. There is also a slightly increasing tendency in the maximum snow cover area (SCA), and a slightly decreasing tendency in the persistent snow cover area (i.e., pixels of SCD > 350 days) was observed for the 8-year period, which was characterized by increases in temperature (0.09 °C/year) and in precipitation (0.26 mm/year). This suggests that, on the Tibetan Plateau, changes in temperature and precipitation exert a considerable influence on the regional SCD and SCA, as well as the distribution of persistent snow cover.