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As Western Snowpack Declines, Nevada Is Hit Hardest


(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, for the Department of Water Resources, right, plunges the snow survey tube into the snow to check the depth of the snowpack during a supplemental snow survey Monday, March 5, 2018, near Echo Summit, Calif.

Snowpack has been declining in the West over the last 60 years or so, and Northern Nevada is among the hardest-hit regions.

Philip Mote is a professor at Oregon State University. He and his colleagues at the University of California-Los Angeles recently published a paper that followed up on data collected in 2005.

“We wanted to do this update because we suspected that things had gotten worse in the last 13 years, and unfortunately they have gotten even worse than we expected,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Researchers looked at snowpack data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture going back to 1955.

Mote said about 60 percent of snowpack survey sites showed declines in 2005, but now more than 90 percent of sites have lost snowpack.

The amount of water we’ve lost compares to the amount of water Lake Mead holds.

“Even though the amount of decline was only about 20 percent over that period, that is still a really large amount of water that is no longer being stored in the mountains,” he said. 

Mote says reservoirs aren't the answer because they're costly and time-consuming to build. The solution, he says, is water policy snowpack will continue to decline. 

“Basically, every degree of warming that happens globally translates into higher snowlines throughout the West," he said.

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Philip Mote, professor, Oregon State University

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