Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Big Snowfall In The West Could Help With The Water Crisis. But Experts Worry That There Will Be More Hot, Dry Weather

The historic drought in the West has been eased by a series of storms that have refilled the soil, filled reservoirs, and added much-needed snowpack. Experts say that how hot it gets in the next few months will determine whether or not it will be enough to help the West get out of its years-long water crisis.

The Central Sierra Snow Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, is run by Andrew Schwartz, who has been moving huge piles of snow at the lab site. He said there was so much snow in the lab that it reached the second floor of their building, and they had to put up plywood to keep it out.

Schwartz said the snow has been “exhilarating,” and he is “cautiously optimistic” that it will help a lot this year, at least in California, to ease worries about reservoirs.

In some Western states, there is more snow than should be there by more than 200%. There is a record amount of snow in the middle of the Sierra Nevada. Only by April 1 the area usually gets snow that has already fallen in the first two months of winter.

Still, nearly 60% of the West is in some drought. And now that it has stopped raining and snowing, experts are worried about how long the “white gold” will last as the weather gets hotter and drier.

the-big-snowfall-in-the-west-could-help- with-the-water-crisis-but-experts-worry-that-there-will-be-more-hot-dry-weather
The Big Snowfall In The West Could Help With The Water Crisis. But Experts Worry That There Will Be More Hot, Dry Weather

Schwartz said, “The numbers have been big, but we are still worried that if we have a long period of dry and warm weather, we may not be in a good place in March and April.” “So, as people who manage and measure water, we’re cautiously optimistic because it’s been great. But the water season has a few more months to go.” He said, “These numbers don’t stay the same.” “If we have record-high temperatures, it won’t be hard for them to fall.”

There is less hope for the Colorado River. Snow at high elevations in the West acts like a natural reservoir, holding water during the cold winter. This water slowly flows into rivers and lakes in the spring and summer. But if it gets warmer before spring, the snow can melt before it should.

The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is very important because, according to the California Department of Water Resources, it provides 30% of the state’s fresh water in an average year. The Colorado River Basin, drying up, is where about 40 million people in seven Western states and Mexico get their water. People in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah get water from mountain ranges covered in snow.

But because people change the climate, weather patterns are changing worldwide. This is causing temperatures to rise and droughts to get worse and happen more often. Less water is flowing into rivers as a result. Since Lake Mead and Lake Powell’s water levels have dropped to record lows, some Western states have had to cut back on how much water they use.

Schwartz said that there is more snow than usual in some parts of the Colorado River Basin. But he also said that the area would need a lot more to make up for a long-term deficit.

Schwartz said, “The snowpack looks pretty good right now in the whole Western US.” “Will it be enough to fix Lake Mead and some of these other places? Likely not.” So far, the water level in Lake Powell hasn’t changed, but it has risen a few feet in Lake Mead.

Reservoirs In California Are Getting Bigger

California’s drought has gotten much better since recent storms. Only two weeks ago, almost 7 million people in California lived in areas with extreme drought, which is the second-worst kind. Since then, there have been no more of those people.But people in California have heard this story before and know that the pendulum can swing hard in the other direction.

After a very wet December, the number of people living in a state with a severe drought dropped from over 6 million to less than 20,000 in January. That didn’t last long, though. By May, a severe drought affected more than 14 million people or almost half of the state’s population.

This year’s three-week rainstorm, which set a record, helped some smaller reservoirs reach their average levels. But many larger reservoirs, like Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, are still below average for this time of year.

Deborah Bathke of the National Drought Mitigation Center said in Thursday’s drought report that the drought has been getting worse for years, even though most of the state got more rain than usual in the last two weeks. “In the past, long droughts were broken up by times when it rained more than usual. But it’s too early to tell if the rain will end the drought.”

Daniel Swain, climate scientist at University of California at Los Angeles and National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that he would be worried if the West had a series of warmer storms in the next two months. He said that one sign of a warming climate is that storms in the area are getting warmer, so higher elevations are getting rain instead of snow.

Swain told, “That could be a problem because there is so much snow right now.” “But there are no signs of that happening right now, at least for the next two weeks, so that’s good.”

Groundwater Problems Are Likely To Keep Happening

There has been a lot of water in the soil as well as in the reservoirs. This is good for groundwater aquifers. But Swain said that this rain wouldn’t help much with the overdraft of groundwater that has been happening for years because of the megadrought.

“This is by no means enough. Part of this is a problem with the way supply and demand work. Swain said, “The ground still has a lot of straw.” ” But you’d need a few more years like this one to help refill those aquifers. There is probably some recharging, but less than would be required to make a big difference.

Climate experts have said for a long time that the drought in the West is the worst it has ever been. This is because there hasn’t been much rain, the temperatures are rising, and the “thirst of the atmosphere” is rising.

Swain said that the “thirstiness of the atmosphere” may be higher than it used to be, even though it has rained lot this year.

“Once things clear up and dry out,” he said, “the atmosphere will pull a lot of that water back out of the land faster than.


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