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Study projects more snowless mountains in climate-changed future

A tall mountain covered in snow and pine trees
Brady Smith/Coconino National Forest
/
Humphreys Peak in Arizona

Warmer temperatures due to global climate change have led to earlier snowmelt and more snow falling as rain on mountain peaks in the Western United States.

Researchers analyzed more than a dozen studies that forecast the future of snow in the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, and other mountain ranges. They found, if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, winters with little or no snow could be the norm for California by the late 2040s, and for the rest of the Western United States by the 2070s.

That would mean less water trickling into rivers and recharging aquifers, and also have effects on ecosystems, wildfires, and winter recreation.

The study appeared in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.

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Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.