Snow Cover Is Decreasing

Another robust projection of climate change is that snow and ice cover should decrease as temperatures rise. Worldwide, snow cover is decreasing, although substantial regional variability exists. In the United States, changes in snowpack in the West currently represent the best-documented hydrological manifestation of climate change. The largest losses in snowpack are occurring in the lower elevations of mountains in the Northwest and California, as higher temperatures cause more precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow. Moreover, snowpack is melting as much as 20 days earlier in many areas of the West. Snow is expected to melt even earlier under projections of future climate change, resulting in streams that have reduced flow and higher temperatures in late summer. Such changes have major implications for ecosystems, hydropower, urban and agricultural water supplies, and other uses.

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