Monday March 6, 2023

FOX Weather

Summer wildfires are reaching higher into the California mountains in recent years, and a new study finds the charred forests are having a dire effect on winter snowpacks long after the flames have been doused.

NOAA researchers found that the loss of tree canopy is leading to snow melting at much greater rates than average and wiping out snowpacks – a crucial ingredient to the region’s water supply – sooner than usual.

Of particular interest that sparked the research were two weeks-long dry periods in California’s mountains during the winters of 2012-2013 and 2020-2021. The latter winter came on the heels of two of the worst fire seasons in state history which featured a 10-fold increase in wildfires over the previous 20 years’ average.  

While both periods had similar amounts of snowpack before the dry spell and similar temperatures, researchers were stunned to find the more recent winter had 50% less snowpack in the fire-scarred region after the dry spell ended.

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