A new report underlines what the reduction of the snowpack means for two billion people. The snowpack is essential for sustaining life. Yet, climate change and global warming may be putting a dent in the water supply resulted from the snowpack worldwide.
According to the new report published in the Environmental Research Letters, all regions of the world are affected by the diminishing of the snowpack. We may not all experience it the same. Nonetheless, by 2060 roughly two billion people will feel the impact of less snowfall followed by earlier melting due to shifts in weather patterns and an increase in global temperature.
The snowpack represents a vital water source. As snow falls during winter, the pack grows and accumulates atop mountains. With the change of season, snow starts melting, feeding rivers, crops and ecosystems with life-essential water.
The new report looked at 421 basins located in the northern hemisphere of the globe. Currently, 97 basins of the 421 are reliant on the snowpack and the snowpack melt to be replenished and fulfill the water needs of the communities which rely on them. Overall, roughly two billion people depend on these basins.
By 2060, 68 of the basins in the northern hemisphere will suffer from significant diminishing of the snowpack. Demand for water isn’t projected to go up. Even under these circumstances, the water supply, including clean drinking water will see drastic reductions.
Rainfall also contributes to replenishing the water basins of the northern hemisphere. Usually, it is sufficient to cover human consumption. Still, there are areas even now which don’t meet this demand simply from rainfall. They are most dependant on snowmelt and groundwater.
The complex science behind climate change predicts that there are areas which will see both increased rainfall and increased snowfall. However, it is deceiving. The problem is that with longer droughts, rainfall will come in high amounts over short periods of time, which leads to severe flooding.
The new report aims to be a useful forecast tool for authorities looking to manage water supplies sustainably and reasonably over the following decades. The research team has introduced data on all basins, rainfall and snowfall as well as the snowpack from 2005 to 2060 in climate models. With already gathered data and projected data in the climate models the research team tried to answer the question of what the reduction of the snowpack means for two billion people.
Climate modelling yielded the following results. Six large areas will be affected. Among them, Western America, the Middle East, Central Asia as well as southern Europe will feel the impact of the snowpack reduction.
The snowpack in this areas is projected to diminish by 67 percent. That means 67 percent less water by 2060. In the U.S., California’s Central Valley is among the most affected areas. It already faces a severe drought. The Sacramento River Basin, home to 4.9 million people and San Joaquin Valley, home to 6.3 million people are projected to be among the most affected.
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