There’s a silver lining to California’s wildfires: More snowpack and water storage, study finds

The Sacramento Bee –

Wildfires in California leave behind acres of scorched land that make snowpack formation easier and more water runoff downstream from the Sierra Nevada to basins in the Central Valley, increasing the amount of water stored underground.

That’s the finding from researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who discovered that blazes in some parts of the state could result in more water availability.

Scorching the earth and killing a forest also can lead to changes the makeup of the snowpack, researchers said. Because wildfires usually burn through many tree canopies, there’s more room for snow to build up, said Fadji Maina, the lead author of the study.

“You just have surface soil without any vegetation which means the snow is going to reach the soil and then accumulate,” Maina, an expert in earth and environmental sciences.

“After a wildfire, because you have good snow accumulation that means in the summer when you have the snowmelt your runoff is going to increase,” she said. “And because the runoff is going to increase, your groundwater is also going to increase because the river is going to feed the groundwater.”