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Scientists uncover alarming trend following 40 years of snowpack observations: 'They will be adapting to permanent changes'

"The train has left the station for regions such as the Southwestern and Northeastern United States."

"The train has left the station for regions such as the Southwestern and Northeastern United States."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new study from Dartmouth College revealed that seasonal snowpacks have significantly decreased in size over the past 40 years across the Northern Hemisphere because of human-driven atmospheric pollution. 

The researchers who made the findings, which were published in the journal Nature and relayed by SciTechDaily, looked at temperature and precipitation data. They found that many regions are "approaching a critical 'snow-loss cliff,'" and as a result, they report that there needs to be changes when it comes to the management of water resources.  

What's happening?

Based on how extensive the loss of snowpacks is and how quickly it is happening in areas where snow is a vital water source for the population, the researchers found that "hundreds of millions of people in North America, Europe, and Asia ... [are] on the precipice of a crisis that continued warming will amplify," according to SciTechDaily. 

According to the report, the hardest hit areas are located in the southwest of the United States and central, eastern, and western Europe, with the Dartmouth researchers noting that "March [snow water equivalent] has sharply declined … by 10% to 20% per decade" in those areas. 

"The train has left the station for regions such as the Southwestern and Northeastern United States," said study author Alexander Gottlieb. "By the end of the 21st century, we expect these places to be close to snow-free by the end of March."

Why is this concerning?

Shrinking snowpacks endanger both water supplies and winter economies. For the Southwestern U.S., less snow means dwindling reservoirs and water scarcity for communities. 

Senior author Justin Mankin noted, "The recreational implications are emblematic of the ways in which global warming disproportionately affects the most vulnerable communities."

In the Northeast, states like Vermont and New Hampshire face threats to their winter recreation industries.

"Ski resorts at lower elevations and latitudes have already been contending with year-on-year snow loss. This will just accelerate, making the business model inviable," Mankin said. "We'll likely see further consolidation of skiing into large, well-resourced resorts at the expense of small and medium-sized ski areas that have such crucial local economic and cultural values."

While extreme weather has always existed, atmospheric pollution and rising temperatures make events like droughts and blizzards more intense and dangerous. This puts our homes, health, and ways of life at risk.

What can I do to help?

We can all take steps to turn climate anxiety into climate action. Simple changes like reducing food waste, using cold water for laundry, and insulating our homes can conserve resources and save money.

On a larger scale, supporting clean energy initiatives and electing climate-conscious leaders can drive positive change. Together, our everyday choices can help build a more sustainable future.

"Once a basin has fallen off that cliff, it's no longer about managing a short-term emergency until the next big snow," Mankin said. "Instead, they will be adapting to permanent changes to water availability." 

By preparing now for these changes and embracing solutions like water conservation and clean energy, we can all do our part to keep winter wonderlands alive for generations to come.

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