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Climate, snow and the geographic distribution of subalpine
meadows at Mount Rainier National Park
Kevin R.
1
Ford *,
University of Washington,
Introduction
•The subalpine meadows of Mount Rainier
National Park host a diverse assemblage
of plant species whose geographic
distribution is thought to be determined
primarily by the size and duration of the
snowpack.
Xiaochi
2
Zhou ,
1Department
Jessica D.
of Biology, and
and Janneke Hille Ris
2Department
1
Lambers
of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Subalpine meadow distributions
Vegetation and climate
Temperature only model (K=0.42)
Climate and snow model (K=0.48)
Vegetation
+2ºC
•Rising temperatures will likely lead to
smaller snowpacks of shorter durations,
which could then lead to an upward
movement of the subalpine meadows.
•Thus, our goal is to map values of
snowpack size and duration across the
park and to then characterize the
relationship between subalpine meadow
distribution and climate/snow. We can
then forecast how habitat suitable for
subalpine meadows might shift with
warming.
2
Lundquist
Mean
annual
temperature
81% reduction
67% reduction
91% reduction
80% reduction
+4ºC
Summer
precipitation
Methods
•We used the SNOW-17 snow model
(Anderson 1976) to estimate typical values
of maximum snowpack size and annual
snow cover duration in 30-arcsec (~800m)
grid cells across the entire park. The input
variables for SNOW-17 are daily values of
temperature and precipitation in each grid
cell, which we estimated using data from
the PRISM climate model (Daly et al.
2008) and COOP weather stations within
the park for 1971-2000.
•We then created climate envelope models
of subalpine meadows. The models
correlate the presence/absence of
subalpine meadows in a grid cell (based
on park vegetation maps) with
temperature, precipitation and/or snow
estimates for that grid cell (based on
PRISM and SNOW-17).
•Finally, we use our models to simulate
how snowpack variables and subalpine
meadow habitat distribution will likely
change given and increase in temperature.
Contract
Winter
precipitation
Persist
Expand
Absent
Conclusions
•Climate change will likely lead to large declines in snowpack and the areal extent of
climatically suitable habitat for subalpine meadows at Mount Rainier.
•However, explicitly including snow variables in the modeling of subalpine meadow habitat
distribution reduces the extent to which subalpine habitat in predicted to decline.
Snow
Current climate
+4ºC
Acknowledgements
Literature cited
Generous funding was provided by the University of
Washington Program on Climate Change and the
Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS)
Foundation. We thank Regina Rochefort for supplying
maps of current vegetation distributions and Mark
Raleigh for assistance with the snow modeling.
Anderson. 1976. NOAA
Technical Report NWS 19.
300
200
100
0
Annual snow cover duration (days)
Daly et al. 2008. International
J. of Climatology 28: 2031-64.
*[email protected]