Even in the precipitation-heavy Pacific Northwest, more frequent heatwaves are threatening a key source of water supply. A Washington State University study that intended to look at snow melting under a single, extreme event, the 2021 “heat dome,” instead revealed an alarming, longer-term rising trend of successive heatwaves melting snowpack earlier in the year.
The findings have implications for many areas worldwide that are dependent on snow-capped mountains to provide summer water since heatwaves have been on the rise globally.
“Short-term events like heatwaves have had an under-appreciated impact on accelerating snow melt, and cumulatively, they can amplify each other,” said Luke Reyes, a doctoral student in WSU’s School of the Environment, and lead author of the study published in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.
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