Rocky Mountain Snow & Ice Coverage Down 20% since 1980 | USGS Study

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United States Geologic Survey researchers have found that warmer springtime temperatures in the Rocky Mountains are causing an estimated 20% decline in snow and ice coverage across the entire mountain range.  This is very significant as the Rocky Mountains stretch across North America for more than 3,000 miles and provide 80% of the drinking water for over 70 million people.  Not to mention this means 20% more of the Rockies are now classified as unskiable…

rocky mountain terrain map

Scientists have examined long term trends by looking at weather data collected between 1895 and 2011 and creating Rocky Mountain snow coverage models.

“Each year, we looked at temperature and precipitation variations and the amount of water contained within the snowpacks as of April.” – Greg Pederson of the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in Bozeman, MT

Mt. Robson & Berg Lake in the Canadian Rockies
Mt. Robson & Berg Lake in the Canadian Rockies

After detailed examinations of the data and models created, scientists found a distinct snow coverage shift first occurring around 1980.

From 1980 on, warmer spring temperatures melted snowpack throughout the Rockies early, regardless of winter precipitation.  The model in turn shows temperature as the major driving factor in snowpack declines over the past 30 years.” – Greg Pederson

Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain N.P., Colorado
Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain N.P., Colorado

These findings are hugely significant because about 80% of the annual water supply for over 70 million people comes from snowmelt coming directly from the Rocky Mountain snowpack.

Another frightening realization from this study is that 20% more of the rockies will be without snow for sliding upon.  Many mountain dwellers depend on Rocky Mountain snow coverage for not only their recreation activities, but their livelihood.

“Regardless of the ultimate causes, continuation of present snowpack trends in the Rocky Mountains will pose difficult challenges for watershed management and conventional water planning in the American West.” – Julio Betancourt, co-author of this Rocky Mountain snow coverage study

This is truly an eye-opening study for both water drinkers and skiers.  70 million people relying on this Rocky Mountain snowpack makes this a crises that will be extremely difficult to manage.  This certainly isn’t good news for us snow sliders either.  20% less snow coverage directly translates to 20% more of the Rockies now being unskiable.

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4 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain Snow & Ice Coverage Down 20% since 1980 | USGS Study

  1. Nope, no global climate change going on here. Just run of the mill uber rapid natural co2 fueled climate change that would have happend anyway. Ordering 2 diesel snowmobiles now.

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