Rapid Climate Change and the West: Snowpacks and Forests at Risk

TitleRapid Climate Change and the West: Snowpacks and Forests at Risk
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2007
AuthorsDiaz, H. F.
Conference Name75th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 75th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 2007
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationKailua-Kona, HI
KeywordsClimate change, IPCC, drought, streamflow reduction, CIRMOUNT

There is a growing recognition in the broader scientific community that rapid climate change from the enhanced greenhouse effect is affecting the western United States. The available data indicates rapid warming in the past 3 decades, with an amplification of the warming signal with elevation. Future climate change scenarios developed as part of the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report suggest that the recent warming trends in the West will continue and intensify. The warming alone will induce greater aridity in much of the West, with worst-case scenarios suggesting a significant reduction in stream flow in most western river basins coupled with much higher risks of forest fires. An ad-hoc interdisciplinary community of climate scientists-including climatologists, hydrologists, and forest ecologists (The Consortium for Climate Change Research in Western Mountains, CIRMOUNT)-has come into existence in the past three years, with the aim of communicating in plain language the environmental and potential socioeconomic threats facing western society from climate change. This paper will examine some of the evidence for rapid warming in the West in recent decades and describe some of our efforts to communicate key findings by the climate science community about ongoing and expected impacts to western society. (Abstract only)