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The Southwest CASC Regional Administrator discusses shrinking snowpack and the effects on water resources in the Western United States in an article about key take aways from the water chapter of the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5). 

The Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), published in November 2023, synthesized the most up-to-date climate change science to paint a picture of how climate change will affect ecosystems and natural resources across the United States. “The Water Desk” at the University of Colorado Boulder, host institution of the North Central CASC, pulled ten key visuals from the NCA5 report to describe how snow and water resources in the Western United States will be impacted by climate change in a recent story.  

The story includes ten maps, graphs, and infographics, with clear explanations and take-home messages from each figure. One certainty is that the warming climate has already decreased snowpack and will continue to do so over the coming decades, with serious consequences for the water supply in the region. Steph McAfee, Southwest CASC Regional Administrator, was a co-author on the NCA5 report and was quoted in the story saying, “Having less snow directly means less water stored for use in the summer.”  

While having less snow may not be a surprise for some, there are nuances. For example, in certain areas, changes to the snowpack result from “dry snow droughts,” or a lack of precipitation, while in other areas changes to the snowpack result from “warm snow droughts.” In a warm snow drought, the amount of precipitation does not change, but warmer temperatures turn snow to rain to reduce snowpack and cause immediate snowmelt which decreases snowmelt later in the year.  

Read more about the nuances of how water resources in the Western United States will change in the original article, “10 visuals that show how climate change is transforming the West’s snow and water supply.” 

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