Journal Highlights

How Does Snow Affect the Intensity of Mountain Precipitation?

Research Spotlight—

A new investigation into the sensitivity of extreme precipitation in a changing climate indicates that more winter rainfall and protracted snowmelt may require local adaptations to winter flooding impacts.

Accurately predicting the intensity of extreme precipitation events in a changing climate is crucial for minimizing the impacts of floodslandslides, and other precipitation-induced hazards. Yet, despite the potential for melting and accumulating snow to modify the intensity of precipitation in mountainous regions, most statistics used for resource planning and infrastructure design are based solely on rainfall.

To clarify how snow affects the intensity of runoff in the western United States, Harpold and Kohler used a widely accepted statistical method for assessing the sensitivity of flooding to climate based upon historical daily precipitation and snow water equivalent measurements collected from 379 mountain sites across the western United States. However, their method accounts for two potentially contrasting effects of regional warming not previously shown: more intense precipitation events and slower snowmelt due to spring melt shifting to earlier in the season, when less solar energy is available....more

-- Terri Cook, Freelance Writer,