Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Scientists discover that Alaska's North Slope snow-free season is lengthening due to atmospheric dynamics and sea ice conditions.
The study, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, found that snow is melting earlier in the spring and the snow-in date is occurring later in the fall.
Researchers from CIRES and NOAA believe atmospheric dynamics and sea ice conditions are to blame for the lengthening of the snow-free season on the North Slope leading to issues such as birds laying eggs sooner and iced-over rivers flowing earlier.
"The timing of snowmelt and length of the snow-free season significantly impacts weather, the permafrost, and wildlife-in short, the Arctic terrestrial system as a whole," Christopher Cox, a scientist with CIRES at the University of Colorado Boulder and NOAA's Physical Sciences Division in Boulder, Colorado, said in a press release.
Scientists focused on the transition seasons on the North Slope and found that since the mid-1970s, the spring melt has been occurring earlier and the first snow has been occurring later resulting in an increased length of the snow-free season.
The study found that there has been an increase of about one week per decade in the snow-free season from 1975 to 2016 and in that same time period, the spring snowmelt has arrived three days earlier every decade. From 1979 to 2016, the onset of snow has arrived 4.5 days later every decade.
Scientists also analyzed long-term observations of snow cover and meteorology at the NOAA Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory and found a persistent, long-term warming trend in which eight of the 10 earliest snowmelt dates occurred since 1990.
The study showed 2016 was the earliest melt, the latest onset of snow in fall and the longest snow-free season in 115 years of record keeping, 45 percent longer than the average over the previous 40 years.
"It's remarkable how rapidly things are changing in the Arctic and how the longer snow-free season affects so many other patterns-the guillemots, vegetation growth, and fluxes of gases from the tundra," Diane Stanitski, scientist at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, said.
The changes are a result of the influence of warming Arctic temperatures, according to scientists.