Drought less predictable under declining future snowpack

Drought less predictable under declining future snowpack

A recent study published in Nature Climate Change finds that climate change-induced reductions in snowfall will significantly reduce our ability to predict the onset of drought. The study was led by Ben Livneh of the Western Water Assessment (a CPO RISA team) and funded by the Sectoral Applications Research Program’s (SARP) Coping with Drought initiative in partnership with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). Water reserved in mountain snowpack plays a major role in seasonal water cycles and currently supplies water to an estimated two billion people. Monitoring this natural reservoir is a key element of drought early warning in the region, but models agree that mountain precipitation will more often fall as rain rather than snow into the mid and late 21st century. The study authors also found that changes to prediction varied by elevation, given that lower elevations are experiencing more rapid warming. 

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Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather.