Navigation Links
Study: Future snowmelt in West twice as early as expected; threatens ecosystems and water reserves
Date:7/15/2008

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - According to a new study, global warming could lead to larger changes in snowmelt in the western United States than was previously thought, possibly increasing wildfire risk and creating new water management challenges for agriculture, ecosystems and urban populations.

Researchers, including a Purdue University professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, discovered that a critical surface temperature feedback is twice as strong as what had been projected by earlier studies.

The high-resolution climate model used by the team was better able to reproduce the complex topography of the western United States and capture details of the effect of snow cover on the climate system, as well as the historical record of runoff.

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters and are now available online at the journal's Web site.

Noah Diffenbaugh, senior author of the paper and an associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue, said the influence of melting snow on regional climate is far greater than that of increased greenhouse gases alone.

"The heat trapping from elevated greenhouse gases triggers the warming, but the additional warming caused by the loss of snow is what really creates the big changes in surface runoff," said Diffenbaugh, who also is a member of Purdue's Climate Change Research Center. "Scientists have known about this general effect for years. The big surprise here is how much the complex topography plays a role, essentially doubling the threat to water resources in the West."

Sara A. Rauscher, visiting scientist at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, and lead author on the paper, said the melting snow contributes to a feedback loop that accelerates warming.

"Because snow is more reflective than the ground or vegetation beneath it, it keeps the surface temperatures lower by reflecting energy from the sun," Rauscher said. "When snow melts or does not accumulate in the first place, more solar energy is absorbed by the ground, warming the surface. A feedback loop is created because the warmer ground then makes it more difficult for snow to accumulate and perpetuates the effect."

The amount and timing of the runoff from snowmelt is critical to the success of water management in the western United States. Water resources for the area are reliant on snow acting as a natural reservoir during the cold season that melts and releases water in the warm season.

Changes in this timing could create problems in meeting the increasing demand for water in large urban and agricultural areas during the hottest summer months, Diffenbaugh said.

"If the snow melts earlier or if it comes as rainfall instead, it would create a strain on infrastructure," he said. "The current system relies on water being stored in the mountains as snow. So earlier runoff could mean too much water for the reservoirs early in the year and not enough available later in the year."

Gregg M. Garfin, deputy director for science translation and outreach at the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona, said dry summers could lead to more severe wildfires and changes in the ecosystems of the West.

"Early snowmelt and warmer soil temperatures could result in further massive forest mortality and an increased risk of wildfire activity," Garfin said. "If these projections become reality, then the ecosystems of the northern and central Rockies will undergo dramatic changes with ramifications for wildlife habitat, fire potential, soil erosion and tourism."

The study suggests a substantial change in the runoff season, with the peak date more than two months earlier than today in some regions, Diffenbaugh said.

"During the past 50 years, the peak runoff time has moved 10 to 15 days earlier," he said. "It is not surprising that as we look to the future, the projected changes are much greater than the historical changes. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions has been relatively small for the past 50 years compared with where we are headed over the next several decades if substantial changes in energy technology and population growth do not occur."

The researchers also compared the climate model to historical records and found that it had a high level of agreement with historical data and observed trends.

"One of the most important contributions of this work is the remarkable agreement between the climate model and the observations of the recent past," Diffenbaugh said. "This agreement should increase confidence not only in these particular projections of future changes, but also of climate model projections in general."


'/>"/>

Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner
ekgardner@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Study: diabetic neuropathy costs billions per year in lost work time
2. Study: Fountain of youth for your heart?
3. First-ever study: lack of critical lubricant causes wear in joints
4. Mayo Clinic study: Ossurs collars superior in immobilization and reduction of pressure
5. Study: weight-loss tips differ in African-American, mainstream magazines
6. Smithsonian study: Sediment prediction tools off the mark
7. Mouse study: When it comes to living longer, its better to go hungry than go running
8. Geisinger study: Inflammatory disease causes blindness
9. Stanford study: Bioenergy potential of reviving abandoned agricultural land
10. U-M study: Herceptin targets breast cancer stem cells
11. Great Plains historical stability vulnerable to future changes
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Study: Future snowmelt in West twice as early as expected; threatens ecosystems and water reserves
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 4, 2017 KEY FINDINGS ... anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 25.76% during ... diseases is the primary factor for the growth of ... report: https://www.reportbuyer.com/product/4807905/ MARKET INSIGHTS The global ... product, technology, application, and geography. The stem cell market ...
(Date:3/30/2017)...  On April 6-7, 2017, Sequencing.com will host the ... hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters in Redmond, Washington ... developing health and wellness apps that provide a unique, ... is the first hackathon for personal genomics and ... in the genomics, tech and health industries are sending ...
(Date:3/29/2017)...  higi, the health IT company that operates the ... , today announced a Series B investment from ... The new investment and acquisition accelerates higi,s strategy to ... population health activities through the collection and workflow integration ... collects and secures data today on behalf of over ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Disappearing forests and increased emissions are the ... million people each year. Especially those living in larger cities are affected by air ... one of the most pollution-affected countries globally - decided to take action. , “I ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... 11, 2017 , ... Singh Biotechnology today announced that the ... its novel anti-STAT3 (Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3) B VHH13 single ... the cell membrane and bind intracellular STAT3 and inhibit its function. Dysregulation of ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... ... ... Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a development-stage cancer-focused pharmaceutical company advancing targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) ... all uses of targeted HPLN (Hybrid Polymerized Liposomal Nanoparticle), a technology developed ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... Dr. Bob Harman, founder ... local San Diego Rotary Club. The event entitled “Stem Cells and ... had 300+ attendees. Dr. Harman, DVM, MPVM was joined by two human doctors: ...
Breaking Biology Technology: