Sierra Snowpack Melting Likely to Be Faster than Previously Expected

snow-dominated runoff
While the world (understandably) remains focused on the melting Arctic ice caps, those of us living in California have been worrying about a melting of a different sort. And, according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the problem may be getting worse.

Indeed, Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue University, believes the melting of California's snowpack may be accelerating at a higher rate than previously thought. By 2100, spring snowmelt could begin up to 2 months earlier in the western U.S. (see here for a description of the image).

sierra snowpack melting

Image from thomas pix
Earlier snowmelt will aggravate the West's water crisis
As I discussed in a previous post describing the West's looming water crisis, the earlier melting would pose a grave threat to California's water supply (the Sierra snowpack is the state's largest surface water reservoir) and cause more wildfires. The warming from climate change will be aggravated by the earlier loss of snow, triggering what is known as the albedo effect -- a positive feedback loop in which melting snow causes the ground to become exposed, leading to more heat being absorbed and further warming.

Climatic implications of earlier snow melting
Diffenbaugh and his colleagues used a high-resolution climate model to accurately reproduce the western U.S.'s topography, allowing them to document the impact of the snow cover on the climate and the region's historical runoff record. More melting snow and earlier runoff will mean too much water during the first months of the year and not enough later, especially during the summer months when it would be most needed.

Via ::Contra Costa Times: Sierra snowpack could shrink faster than previously thought (news website)

Water and droughts in the U.S. West
::Future Of Water In The US West: A Bleak Projection Of Climate Consequence
::Climate Change Expected to Drastically Alter California
::Global Warming Will Worsen West's Water Crisis in Coming Years

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