Slower Snowmelt Could Mean Less Water, Researchers Say

Mar 28, 2017

A recent study suggests climate change could slow the rate at which snowpack melts. That could mean less water available for future use.

Climate scientists suggest in a warmer world snowmelt will occur earlier in the season when days are shorter and the sun doesn't shine directly overhead. As a result, this study shows snowmelt will occur more slowly.

Study co-author Keith Musselman is with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. He says the findings could mean less water for states that rely on snowpack, like Colorado.  

"When snow melts more slowly, the resulting water kind of lingers in the soil more giving plants more opportunities to take up that moisture and then ultimately water absorbed by those plants is water that doesn't make it into our streams and waterways," he said.  

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change.

Another recent study from Colorado State University suggests the loss of stream flow in the Colorado River due to climate change could be upward of 35% by the end of the 21st century.