Deforestation in Amazon Could Reduce Snowfall in Sierra Nevada by 50%

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Amazon forest deforestation
Amazon forest deforestation

The deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest in South America via logging, burning, gold mining, coca plant cultivation, and cattle grazing could reduce California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack by 50% and the Pacific Northwest snowpack by 20% according to a new study published in the Journal of Climate by Princeton University & the University of Miami.

This study shows a connection between deforestation of the Amazon and the creation of drier air masses.  The study goes on to report that an El Nino-like effect that would create reductions in snowfall in the Western USA from December through February.

California Sierra Nevada mountains from space.
California Sierra Nevada mountains from space.

If true, this means that Lake Tahoe, Mammoth, and the High Sierra would accrue only 50% of their snowpack they currently enjoy.  This is a significant reduction that would most likely end skiing and snowboarding in California as we know it.  There are many reasons to stop the deforestation of the Amazon, but this one hits very close to home.

“The big point is that Amazon deforestation will not only affect the Amazon — it will not be contained. It will hit the atmosphere and the atmosphere will carry those responses.” – David Medvigy

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Details of the Amazon Study:

The researchers report in the Journal of Climate that an Amazon stripped bare could mean 20 percent less rain for the coastal Northwest and a 50 percent reduction in the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a crucial source of water for cities and farms in California. Previous research has shown that deforestation will likely produce dry air over the Amazon. Using high-resolution climate simulations, the researchers are the first to find that the atmosphere’s normal weather-moving mechanics would create a ripple effect that would move that dry air directly over the western United States from December to February.”Princeton University

Read a full breakdown of the Amazon study on Princeton’s website here:

Amazon deforestation could mean droughts for western U.S.

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Abstract of the Amazon Study:

“Numerical models have long predicted that the deforestation of the Amazon would lead to large regional changes in precipitation and temperature, but the extratropical effects of deforestation have been a matter of controversy. This paper investigates the simulated impacts of deforestation on the northwest United States December–February climate. Integrations are carried out using the Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Model (OLAM), here run as a variable-resolution atmospheric GCM, configured with three alternative horizontal grid meshes: 1) 25-km characteristic length scale (CLS) over the United States, 50-km CLS over the Andes and Amazon, and 200-km CLS in the far-field; 2) 50-km CLS over the United States, 50-km CLS over the Andes and Amazon, and 200-km CLS in the far-field; and 3) 200-km CLS globally. In the high-resolution simulations, deforestation causes a redistribution of precipitation within the Amazon, accompanied by vorticity and thermal anomalies. These anomalies set up Rossby waves that propagate into the extratropics and impact western North America. Ultimately, Amazon deforestation results in 10%–20% precipitation reductions for the coastal northwest United States and the Sierra Nevada. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada experiences declines of up to 50%. However, in the coarse-resolution simulations, this mechanism is not resolved and precipitation is not reduced in the northwest United States. These results highlight the need for adequate model resolution in modeling the impacts of Amazon deforestation. It is concluded that the deforestation of the Amazon can act as a driver of regional climate change in the extratropics, including areas of the western United States that are agriculturally important.” – Journal of Climate

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Link to the Amazon study in the Journal of Climate here:

Simulated Changes in Northwest U.S. Climate in Response to Amazon Deforestation

The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest

11 Facts About the Amazon Rainforest:

1. Around 80% of the food we eat originally came from rainforests. Some of the more popular examples include coffee, chocolate, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, black pepper, pineapples and corn. At The Inside Track we basically live on coffee. That’s reason enough to save the rainforest!

2. Tropical rainforests only cover about 6% of the Earth’s surface, but they are home to more than half the world’s total plant and animal species.

3. The forest floor is almost completely dark – with less that 1% of the available sunlight making it through the tree canopy above.

4. There are around 3000 fruits found in rainforests, and in the west we make use of around 200 of them. However, indigenous tribes make use of over 2000!

5. The rainforests have begun to be destroyed in the last 100 years to make way for farm land. Today, the rainforests are being destroyed by 1.5 acres every second. That’s not a typo.

Amazon deforestation
Amazon deforestation

6. With deforestation continuing at such a fast rate, we’ve created the most rapid extinction rate in the history of the world. 137 rainforest species are exterminated completely every single day.

6.5.  Over half the world’s plants and animals can be found in the rainforests.

7. Over a quarter of the medicines we use today have their origins in the rainforests – and that’s after only about 1% of rainforest plants have been examined for their medicinal properties. Imagine what else could be there? It’s not outlandish to think that our best chance of curing the diseases that plague our world could lie within the rainforest. But with so many species exterminated every day, we may never find out.

8. We often think that the soil in the rainforest is really fertile to support such a huge range of plant and animal life. But rainforest land is not really any good for farming. Once cleared, the soil is of such low quality that it can hardly be used to grow anything. After a year or two of farming, the land is totally bereft of nutrients – leaving a useless patch of land.

9. Some people call the rainforests ‘the world’s lungs’, but decomposition of plant matter absorbs as much oxygen as the trees produce. It’s probably more accurate to think of them as having a cooling effect on the global climate, as they absorb a huge amount of heat from the sun. About 30% of our carbon emissions come from one thing – burning the rainforests.

10. If deforestation continues, we’ll completely lose the rainforests within the next 40 years.

11.  Over 3,000 species of fish live in the Amazon river.  That is more than all the known species of fish in the Atlantic Ocean.



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