Sustainability Environment

Snowless winters could soon strike the US Mountain West

(Associated Press photo/Thomas Peipert)

Story at a glance

  • A paper published in November in the journal Nature Reviews Earth and Environment found snowless Mountain West winters could become an increasingly common theme as early as 2040.
  • The area has lost 20 percent of its snowpack since the 1950s.
  • This year, ski resorts in Colorado had to delay opening the slopes because the warm temperatures made it impossible to even produce fake snow.

As the Mountain West in the United States has so far experienced a warmer than usual and snow-lacking winter, experts warn this could soon become the norm.

This year, ski resorts in Colorado had to delay opening the slopes because the warm temperatures made it impossible to even produce fake snow. Meanwhile, in Utah, for the second time since 1976 Salt Lake City received no snow in November.


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A paper published in November in the journal Nature Reviews Earth and Environment found this could become an increasingly common theme as early as 2040. The researchers examined snow loss in the Mountain West over the last few decades, finding that the area has lost 20 percent of its snowpack since the 1950s, and they believe it could stand to lose 50 percent more by the year 3000.

Researchers warn this could have effects surpassing ski season. Nearly 75 percent of the Western U.S. receives its water supply from snowmelt, and the lack of water could go on to increase the area’s already accelerating wildfire risk.

“This is not an issue in a hypothetical future,” Erica Siirila-Woodburn, one of the study’s lead authors, told High Country News.


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