As shown in the animation below, this was indeed a snow boom year in the western United States. This is especially true in water-stressed California and the mega-drought-hit Colorado River Basin, whose dwindling water is supporting a $1.4 trillion economy.
Before and after satellite images, one taken on April 8, 2022 by the NOAA-20 satellite and another taken on April 10, 2023 by the Suomi-NPP spacecraft, show a striking difference in snow cover in the mountains of the American West. . Snow cover is now much higher than average almost everywhere. (Source: images from NASA Worldview, animation by Tom Yulsman)
Incredible snow cover in California’s Sierra Nevada continues to make headlines, especially as heat builds up. threatens to meltraising the already high risk of flooding. As of April 26, snowpack levels across the Sierra Nevada were over 200 percent of the average for that date. In the southern part of the Sierra, this figure exceeded 300 percent of the average.
These numbers are not uncommon. right now in the western US, as shown on this map:
Credit: USDA/NRCS National Water and Climate Center.
All these blues and greens show where the snow cover is above average.
The abundance of snow in the mountains of the Colorado River Basin is a relief to the 40 million people in the seven states, Mexico and the numerous Indian tribes that depend on its waters. Two large reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which were needed to meet their water needs, have dropped to record lows. The water level in other reservoirs of the basin dropped sharply.
But now the snow cover gives hope that a further decline can be avoided – at least in the upcoming warm season. Based current forecaststhe reservoir for the basin as a whole will be filled to approximately 44 percent capacity on 30 September, at the end water year 2023. This is more than 33 percent at the beginning of the water year in October. January 1, 2022. Some good news for a change, but almost certainly not in the long run.
Satellite images of the Colorado Rockies before and after, the first image was taken on April 4, 2022, and the second on April 16 this year. (Source: images from NASA Worldview, animation by Tom Yulsman)
“This winter’s snow cover is promising and gives us an opportunity to help replenish Lakes Mead and Powell in the near term, but the reality is that drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin have been in place for more than two decades,” the US Bureau said. Land Reclamation Commissioner Camilla Kalimlim Tuton, in statements.
Recent Research shows that the region has suffered from the worst drought in the region for at least 1200 years. In the study, just over 40 percent of its severity was attributed to human-caused climate change, mostly due to rising temperatures that caused increased aridity.
As Touton points out, “despite welcome snow this year, the Colorado River system remains under threat from the ongoing effects of the climate crisis.”
Landsat-8 images of the upper Colorado River show a dramatic difference in snow cover between April 2022 and 2023. In both images, bodies of water are artificially tinted blue to make them stand out. (Source: Images via Sentinel Hub, animation by Tom Yulsman)
Assuming that this year’s abundance of snow results in expected runoff into streams and rivers – which isn’t really a given – it would give politicians a little more time to make some very difficult decisions about how to deal with the inevitable fact that much more water is being used. for agriculture, industry and municipal needs than flows in the Colorado River. That is why Lake Mead and Powell have shrunk to record lows. And thanks to the climate crisis, the flow deficit is unlikely to be eliminated in the long term.
This long-term perspective is associated with rising temperatures due to the rising concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which continue to their historically high growth rates in 2022, according to NOAA scientists.
“The bottom line is that to see any reduction in CO2 growth rates, emissions reductions need to be sustained and significant,” says Arlene Andrews, head of NOAA’s greenhouse gas emissions team.
Right now, we’re nowhere near seeing a reduction in emissions. Vice versa. In 2022, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 0.9 percent, according to the International Energy Agencyreaching a record level of almost 37 billion tons.