Severe Drought Out West

Global warming will diminish the amount of water stored as snow in the Western United States by up to 70 percent in the coastal mountains over the next 50 years, according to a new climate change model.

The reduction in Western mountain snow cover, from the Sierra Nevada range that feeds California in the south to the snowcapped volcanic peaks of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest, will lead to increased fall and winter flooding, severe spring and summer drought that will play havoc with the West's agriculture, fisheries and hydropower industry.


"And this is a best case scenario," said the forecast's chief modeler, L. Ruby Leung, a staff scientist at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. Leung delivered the sobering report at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, and the full results of her study appears in the journal Climatic Change. 



Leung emphasized the estimate's conservativeness, noting that the climate projections of warming devised by DOE and the National Center for Atmospheric Research are on the low end compared to most other models. Leung's clumping of the models is part of the DOE's Accelerated Climate Prediction Initiative, or ACPI. 

ACPI assumes a 1 percent annual increase in the rate of greenhouse gas concentrations through the year 2100, for little change in precipitation and an average temperature increase of 1.5 to 2 degrees centigrade at least through the middle of 21st century. The result: more winter precipitation falling as rain instead of snow, two-tenths of an inch to more than half an inch a day, pushing the snowline in the mountains up from 3,000 feet to higher than 4,000 feet. 

Where we now have snow in the mountains into April, "at mid-century snow will melt off much earlier than that," Leung said, noting research that shows in the past 50 years coastal mountain ranges have already lost 60 percent of their snowpack. 

Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Good for Snakes

Recent research at the University of Illinois suggests that ratsnakes in Canada, Illinois, and Texas would all benefit from global warming.

“It would actually make the environment thermally better for them,” said researcher Patrick Weatherhead.

Ratsnakes were studied because their broad geographic range made it possible to use latitude as a surrogate for climate change.  The climate in Illinois will someday be much like that in Texas today, and Ontario will eventually have a climate like that in present-day Illinois.


Texas Rat Snake


“What are ratsnakes in Illinois going to be dealing with given the projections for how much warmer it will be 50 years from now? Well, go to Texas and find out. That’s what they’re dealing with now. Snakes are ectotherms, that is, they use the environment to regulate their body temperature. We were able to compare ratsnakes’ ability to regulate their temperature in Texas as compared to Illinois and Canada.”

The research showed that ratsnakes in Canada, Illinois, and Texas would all benefit from global warming.

Source: University of Illinois

Ice Age Mystery
Ice Age Mystery
A Proposed Theory for Climate Change
by L.G. Bell
A study of the ending of the last Ice Age leads to predictions about the probable effect of global warming on future climate. 161 pages.
Snow Surveyors
Snow Surveyors
Defenders Against Flood And Drought

Copyright 2012 by Michael Hofferber
Outrider