In the Sierras and Rockies, the Snowpack Is Shrinking Fast
Some parts of the western United States have seen a 41 percent decline in the annual mass of snow since 1982. The affected region is about the size of South Carolina, according to a research team led by Xubin Zeng, professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. “For the future, that percentage will keep increasing,” says Zeng, who presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington.
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At the same time, the length of the snow season shrank by 34 days for the snowiest regions. Zeng used data collected by a network of backyard weather collectors who report snowfall every day to the National Weather Service across the United States, as well as an automated system of recording devices in the high mountains. These machines use 10-foot-wide rubber bladders filled with an anti-freeze solution that weigh how much snow lies on top of them.