Snowpack affects our ecosystems

The future impact of snowpack decrease

Decreases in snow accumulation and earlier melt have been observed in the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, and it is expected that warming temperatures will reduce the amount of precipitation that falls as snow and hasten the onset of spring throughout the western U.S..

Macroscale hydrologic models forced with Global Circulation Model data sets predict that snowpacks and snowmelt runoff will respond if winter and spring temperatures continue to rise in the continental mountains.

Winter and spring temperatures in the western U.S. have increased over 1 degree Celsius on average in the last 50 years to record high temperatures the early 2000s, yet changes in SWE and snowmelt timing have only been documented in the state of Colorado. The effects of warming temperatures on higher-elevation snowpacks in the Rio Grande, Great Basin, and Colorado River Basins comprising the larger intermountainwest remains poorly understood.

Snowpacks are the primary water resource in the semiarid IMW river basins and decreases in SWE and earlier melts would be particularly troubling because water supplies are already over allocated. Seasonal snowpacks act as ''reservoirs'' for water storage and shorter and earlier snowmelt seasons lead to greater downstream losses and less water available for ecological and human needs.

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