Global Warming: Early Snowmelt

“Mother Nature is going to stop being our water banker.” That’s the warning from geophysicist Tim Barnett at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Barnett and many other researchers published a study in the journal Science recently that confirms the snowpack in the west has arrived more as rain than snow in recent years. The study blames global warming.

A Los Angeles Times article on the study reveals that as temperatures have increased, more winter precipitation has fallen as rain stead of snow. The study says flatly that snow is melting sooner. Can DWP reservoirs handle more water earlier? In past months, DWP spokesmen had said they are looking at all of that.

As the Times article states – In California, reservoirs already operate on a delicate balance. The recent study shows that temperatures have definitely gone up, a little bit at a time over the years.

One computer model shows that “rising concentrations of greenhouse gases accounted for 60% of the changes. Another climate model calculated a contribution of 35%. Brad Udall, a Western water expert at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says that western states must begin to adapt to these changes – build more reservoirs, increase water conservation. Udall says “there’s no extra water in the system. More population means you’re going to have to find it somewhere else. And climate change means you have one more stress on an already stressed system.”

As for this year, the snow has, at least, piled up. LADWP’s latest snowpack survey shows Mammoth Pass now even with the long term average. Recent storms left lots more snow in the hills. Mammoth Pass shows 30.7 inches of water content which hit the stride of long term average.

Snow sensors and precipitation checks also show well above normal to date. The next two months will tell the story for the winter, and then scientists will watch to see how rapidly the snowpack melts and how much is captured.

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