Future decreases in freezing days across North America

Michael A. Rawlins, Raymond S. Bradley, Henry F. Diaz, John S. Kimball, David A. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This study used air temperatures from a suite of regional climate models participating in the North American Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) together with two atmospheric reanalysis datasets to investigate changes in freezing days (defined as days with daily average temperature below freezing) likely to occur between 30-yr baseline (1971-2000) and midcentury (2041-70) periods across most of North America. Changes in NARCCAP ensemble mean winter temperature show a strong gradient with latitude, with warming of over 4°C near Hudson Bay. The decline in freezing days ranges from less than 10 days across north-central Canada to nearly 90 days in the warmest areas of the continent that currently undergo seasonally freezing conditions. The area experiencing freezing days contracts by 0.9-1.0 × 106 km2 (5.7%-6.4% of the total area). Areas with mean annual temperature between 2° and 6°C and a relatively low rate of change in climatological daily temperatures (>0.2°C day-) near the time of spring thaw will encounter the greatest decreases in freezing days. Advances in the timing of spring thaw will exceed the delay in fall freeze across much of the United States, with the reverse pattern likely over most of Canada.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6923-6935
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2016


  • Climate change
  • Climate models
  • Models and modeling
  • Physical meteorology and climatology
  • Regional models
  • Surface temperature


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