Search - NW Climate Science Digest

Use this page to search climate science digests beginning in 2015.

Digests from 2013-2014 are archived here.


Digest Articles

Aquatic Resources, Stream Flow, Hydrology in the Western U.S.

Effects of climate change on snowpack and fire potential in the western U.S.

Gergel, D.R., Nijssen, B., Abatzoglou, J.T. et al. 2017. Effects of climate change on snowpack and fire potential in the western USA. Climatic Change 141: 287. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1899-y

Researchers evaluated the implications of ten twenty-first century climate scenarios for snow, soil moisture, and fuel moisture across the conterminous western U.S. using the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrology model. A decline in mountain snowpack, an advance in the timing of spring melt, and a reduction in snow season were projected for five mountain ranges in the region. For the southernmost range (the White Mountains), spring snow at most elevations is projected to disappear by the end of the twenty-first century. The accelerated depletion of mountain snowpack due to warming will likely lead to reduced summer soil moisture across mountain environments. Similarly, warmer and drier summers will likely lead to decreases of up to 25% in dead fuel moisture across all mountain ranges. Collective declines in spring mountain snowpack, summer soil moisture, and fuel moisture across western mountain ranges will increase fire potential in flammability-limited forested systems where fuels are not limiting. Projected changes in fire potential in predominately fuel-limited systems at lower elevations were more uncertain.