Snowpack Levels Declining Across Western U.S.

Snowy mountain landscape

A new study published in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science (Nature publication) shows that snowpack levels across the western U.S. have declined over the last 100 years. The team of researchers analyzed data from snow monitoring sites across the West and found declines between 15 to 30 percent with the largest impacts occurring in the spring due to warming temperatures. The study concludes that declining snowpack levels will ultimately have consequences for a variety of factors including snowpack storage in the mountains as well as lower river and reservoir levels during late summer and early fall.

From the article: "It is a bigger decline than we had expected," said Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. "In many lower-elevation sites, what used to fall as snow is now rain. Upper elevations have not been affected nearly as much, but most states don't have that much area at 7,000-plus feet. The solution isn't in infrastructure. New reservoirs could not be built fast enough to offset the loss of snow storage - and we don't have a lot of capacity left for that kind of storage. It comes down to managing what we have in the best possible ways."


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