Boulder, Sierra, INVESTIGATOR
Peak runoff in streams and rivers of the western United States is strongly influenced by melting of accumulated mountain snowpack. A significant decline in this resource has a direct connection to streamflow, with substantial economic and societal impacts. Observations and reanalyses indicate that between the 1980s and 2000s, there was a 10–20% loss in the annual maximum amount of water contained in the region’s snowpack. Here we show that this loss is consistent with results from a large ensemble of climate simulations forced with natural and anthropogenic changes, but is inconsistent with simulations forced by natural changes alone. A further loss of up to 60% is projected within the next 30 years. Uncertainties in loss estimates depend on the size and the rate of response to continued anthropogenic forcing and the magnitude and phasing of internal decadal variability. The projected losses have serious implications for the hydropower, municipal and agricultural sectors in the region.
Fyfe, J.C., C. Derksen, L. Mudryk, N.C. Swart, N.P. Molotch, G.M. Flato, X. Zhang, H. Wan, V.K. Arora, J. Scinocca, Y. Jiao (2017): Large near-term projected snowpack loss over the western United States. Nature Communications, Vol. 8, article: 14996,. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14996.