Journal cover Journal topic
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 2259-2271, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-16-2259-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
17 Oct 2016
Heavy snow loads in Finnish forests respond regionally asymmetrically to projected climate change
Ilari Lehtonen1, Matti Kämäräinen1, Hilppa Gregow1, Ari Venäläinen1, and Heli Peltola2 1Finnish Meteorological Institute, 00101 Helsinki, Finland
2School of Forest Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, 80101 Joensuu, Finland
Abstract. This study examined the impacts of projected climate change on heavy snow loads on Finnish forests, where snow-induced forest damage occurs frequently. For snow-load calculations, we used daily data from five global climate models under representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenarios RCP4.5 and RCP8.5, statistically downscaled onto a high-resolution grid using a quantile-mapping method. Our results suggest that projected climate warming results in regionally asymmetric response on heavy snow loads in Finnish forests. In eastern and northern Finland, the annual maximum snow loads on tree crowns were projected to increase during the present century, as opposed to southern and western parts of the country. The change was rather similar both for heavy rime loads and wet snow loads, as well as for frozen snow loads. Only the heaviest dry snow loads were projected to decrease over almost the whole of Finland. Our results are aligned with previous snowfall projections, typically indicating increasing heavy snowfalls over the areas with mean temperature below −8 °C. In spite of some uncertainties related to our results, we conclude that the risk for snow-induced forest damage is likely to increase in the future in the eastern and northern parts of Finland, i.e. in the areas experiencing the coldest winters in the country. The increase is partly due to the increase in wet snow hazards but also due to more favourable conditions for rime accumulation in a future climate that is more humid but still cold enough.

Citation: Lehtonen, I., Kämäräinen, M., Gregow, H., Venäläinen, A., and Peltola, H.: Heavy snow loads in Finnish forests respond regionally asymmetrically to projected climate change, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 2259-2271, https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-16-2259-2016, 2016.
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Short summary
We studied the impact of projected climate change on the risk of snow-induced forest damage in Finland. Although winters are projected to become milder over the whole of Finland, our results suggest than in eastern and northern Finland the risk may increase while in southern and western parts of the country it is projected to decrease. This indicates that there is increasing need to consider the potential of snow damage in forest management in eastern and northern Finland.
We studied the impact of projected climate change on the risk of snow-induced forest damage in...
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