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So goes the snow: Alaska snowpack changes and impacts on pacific salmon in a warming climate

April 30, 2023

In Alaska’s watersheds, climate change is altering the nature and role of the snowpack, defined as snow accumulation that melts in spring. Generally, the amount of precipitation that falls as snow and the length of the snow-cover season both decrease as temperatures exceed 0°C (32°F) more frequently. The impacts of climate change on snowpack vary among watersheds. In southern, coastal parts of Alaska, large decreases in spring snowpack are expected by the mid-21st century, even with more winter precipitation because temperatures warm to above freezing, causing a shift from snow to rain or more melt during the winter. In contrast, modest early spring increases in the snowpack are expected in watersheds where temperatures remain below freezing. In these locations temperatures warm but remain cold enough for the extra winter precipitation to fall as snow, even though the snowpack will begin accumulating later in the fall and melt earlier in the spring as temperatures rise during those warmer seasons. Because potential impacts on hydrological and ecological systems will vary among watersheds, it is difficult to generalize the resulting ecological impacts at broad spatial scales. Here, we explore likely impacts on hydrology in critical anadromous fish habitat in southwest Alaska.

Publication Year 2023
Title So goes the snow: Alaska snowpack changes and impacts on pacific salmon in a warming climate
Authors Jeremy Littell, Joel H. Reynolds, Krista K. Bartz, Stephanie A. McAfee, Gregory D. Hayward
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Alaska Park Science
Index ID 70243276
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center