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Arizona Scientists: Snowpack Worst in 500 Years

Arizona scientists say evidence from tree rings proves the 2015 snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was the worst in 500 years. Credit: nickpedersen/iStockphoto
Arizona scientists say evidence from tree rings proves the 2015 snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was the worst in 500 years. Credit: nickpedersen/iStockphoto
September 15, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. - It's no surprise to anyone watching the Northern California fire devastation this month: Arizona scientists say this year's snowpack level in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was the worst in 50 years.

It's the conclusion of a report published Monday by scientists from the University of Arizona at Tucson and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The team studied tree rings as part of its research. Report coauthor and associate professor Valerie Trouet warns a changing climate means the 2015 record may not stand for long.

"With climate warming, very low precipitation and high temperatures occurring at the same time are going to increase," says Trouet. "So, very likely it won't take another 500 years before we hit another low snowpack like this."

The study showed the 2015 winter season was the warmest and the third-driest ever recorded. The research was published in the journal Nature.

Trouet says the problem extends well beyond the Golden State.

"The same snowpack issues, decreasing snowpack with rising temperatures, that is not specific to California," says Trouet. "That'll happen here in Arizona, as well."

She adds the El Nino weather pattern predicted for this winter will likely bring additional rain to Arizona and Southern California, but is also likely to stay too far south to affect the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ