Snow climatology for the mountains in the Iberian Peninsula using MODIS imagery and simulations with dynamically downscaled reanalysis data
The presence of a seasonal snowpack determines the hydrology, geomorphology and ecology of wide parts of the Iberian Peninsula, with strong implications for the economy, transport and risk management. Thus, reliable information on snow is necessary from a scientific and operational point of view. This is the case of the Iberian Peninsula where, lack of observation has impeded proper analysis of snowpack duration, magnitude and interannual variability. In this study, we present the first snow climatology of the entire Iberian Peninsula. The scarcity of in situ observations has been overcome, using a newly developed remote sensing snow database from MODIS satellite sensors for the period 2000–2014 and a physically based snow model (Factorial Snow Model—FSM), driven by a regional atmospheric model (Weather Research and Forecast model—WRF) over the Iberian Peninsula for the period 1980–2014. The snowpack of the main mountain areas (Pyrenees, Cantabrian, Central, Iberian range and Sierra Nevada) are described, estimated from the generated databases. The information has been processed using a k‐means cluster algorithm, looking for similarities in snow indices at different elevation bands. Results show four different types of snowpack in terms of depth, duration and interannual variability, lying over different elevation bands in the different ranges, proving the variability of the snowpack over Iberia. Analyses reveal areas characterized by ephemeral snowpacks, while in some sectors snowpack lasts, on average, 198 days per year with 3.02 m of peak snow depth. The coefficient of variation of interannual peak snow depth oscillated between 35.2 and 162.4%. All the analysed indices show that at common elevations the Cantabrian range and the Pyrenees host the deepest and longest lasting snowpacks, followed by the Central and Iberian ranges. The Sierra Nevada exhibits the shortest, shallowest snowpack and more year‐to‐year variability.