What 3.6 Degrees Means For Snowpack In The Western Cascades

Jul 25, 2013

Rising temperatures will reduce the peak snowpack in the Cascades slopes east of Eugene by more than 50 percent. That’s according to a climate study Oregon State University researchers published today.

Climate change will reduce snowpack that feeds the McKenzie River in the summer by 56 percent.
Credit Chris / Wikimedia Commons

Most climate models predict temperatures in the Pacific Northwest will rise about three and a half degrees over the next fifty years or so.

That projected increase matters in the western Cascades, where three degrees is often the difference between a snowy day and a rainy day.

Researcher Eric Sproles used the McKenzie River basin east of Eugene as an example of a typical Cascades watershed. He found that climate change won’t affect the total amount of precipitation much. But it will reduce snowpack that feeds the river in the summer by 56 percent.

“The loss of snowpack is going to be 2.5 times bigger than the largest reservoirs that are in the basin right now.”

Researchers with the University of Washington’s Climate Impact Group have modeled very similar changes in the snowpack that feeds the Yakima and Columbia rivers.

Copyright 2013 Oregon Public Broadcasting