What would the Earth be like if one fine day all the snow melted away?
Obviously, it would be a much warmer place. But whats interesting is how much warmer, says Stephen Vavrus, an associate scientist at the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Working with computer-generated simulations, Vavrus found that in the absence of snow cover, global temperatures would likely spike by about eight-tenths of a degree Celsius. That increase represents as much as a third of the warming that climate change experts have predicted, should levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases double.
"This was not just a what-if question," says Vavrus, whose work comes amidst mounting reports on the steady melt of Arctic ice. "I wanted to quantify the influence of global snow cover on the present-day climate because that has relevance for the type of climate changes we are expecting in the future." Vavrus will discuss his findings today during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (Dec. 5-9, 2005).
Stephen Vavrus | EurekAlert!
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