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Research shows scorched wildfire trees could disrupt water supplies

As wildfires intensify across the West, researchers are studying how scorched trees could lead to a faster snowmelt and end up disrupting water supplies.

Without a tree canopy, snow is exposed to more sunlight.

Specks of carbon from burnt trees also darken snow and make it absorb more light, speeding the melting process. That means snow melting into rivers earlier than normal could leave less water flowing in the summer when it’s most needed.

Researchers say the long-term effects of charred forests on snow could fuel the cycle of drought and wildfires, further disrupting how communities plan for water supplies in the West.