542 Snowfall Changes During the California Drought

Tuesday, 24 January 2017
Veronica Fall, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and E. Martin, L. M. Leslie, and M. B. Richman

The ongoing California drought has had a huge impact on the agricultural and economic sectors of the state, with households throughout needing to change their lifestyles and water usage to accommodate decreased water availability.  Although the drought situation appears to have improved over the last year as a result of El Niño, especially amongst those regions that were once classified as extreme and exceptional drought, to date none of the state is classified as drought free.
Several studies have noted that this drought is uniquely driven by above-average temperatures exacerbating the decreased rainfall, a phenomenon sometimes termed a heat drought. However, there has been less focus on the role of snow. Since snowfall and the associated amount and timing of springtime runoff provides a majority of the state’s water resources during the dry season, changes to the snowpack will have a significant contribution to the difficulty in managing and allocating water resources during this time.  This study will investigate spatiotemporal snowfall changes throughout the state and their relationship with droughts, noting which areas have experienced the expected decrease in snowfall amounts as compared to the historical record beginning in 1895. Detailed investigation of the future simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) will provide insight for changes in snowfall amounts within the century and if droughts of this magnitude and severity will become more likely.  These results will therefore be useful to better understand how to prepare for a drought and the allocation and management of water resources.
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