Quantcast
Climate
The Alaska Range. Andrei Taranchenko / Flickr

Climate Change Has Doubled Snowfall in Alaskan Mountains

New research shows that the Alaska Range receives an average of 18 feet of snow per year—that's more than double the average of eight feet per year from 1600-1840.

The likely culprit, according to researchers from Dartmouth College, the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire, is none other than climate change.


"We were shocked when we first saw how much snowfall has increased," said Erich Osterberg, an assistant professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth College and principal investigator for the research. "We had to check and double-check our results to make sure of the findings. Dramatic increases in temperature and air pollution in modern times have been well established in science, but now we're also seeing dramatic increases in regional precipitation with climate change."

The Alaska Range, North America's highest mountain range, is a 600-mile long chain of mountains that stretches from the Alaska-Canada border to the Alaska Peninsula. The range is best known for its largest mountain, Denali, and its namesake park, Denali National Park and Preserve.

According to the research, snowfall during the winter has jumped 117 percent since the mid-19th century in Southcentral Alaska. Summer snows increased 49 percent in the same period.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports on Tuesday, adds more evidence on the effect of climate change on regional precipitation. Earlier this month, an analysis published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that human-caused warming likely intensified Hurricane Harvey's record rains over Houston.

For the current study, the researchers analyzed two ice core samples collected at 13,000 feet from Mount Hunter in Denali National Park.

The authors suggest that warmer waters from the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans caused a strengthening of the "Aleutian Low" pressure system with its northward flow of warm, moist air, driving most of the snowfall increases.

"It is now glaringly clear from our ice core record that modern snowfall rates in Alaska are much higher than natural rates before the Industrial Revolution," said Dominic Winski, a research assistant at Dartmouth and the lead author of the report. "This increase in precipitation is also apparent in weather station data from the past 50 years, but ice cores show the scale of the change well above natural conditions."

Time series shows the dramatic doubling of snowfall around North America's highest peaks since the beginning of the Industrial Age. Inset shows summer (red) and winter (blue) snowfall since 1870.Dominic Winski

Climate change refers to more than just changes in the average surface temperature. The term also describes variations in sea levels, sea ice and, yes, snow.

Here's a simple explainer on how warmer temperatures can lead to more snowfall, straight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate from the land and oceans, which leads to more precipitation, larger storms, and more variation in precipitation in some areas. In general, a warmer climate causes more of this precipitation to fall in the form of rain instead of snow. Some places, however, could see more snowfall if temperatures rise but still remain below the freezing point, or if storm tracks change.

Climate deniers have used the presence of snow to cast doubt on climate science. Remember Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma's infamous snowball-throwing stunt on the Senate floor?

Also, check out this 2013 tweet from then-reality show host, now- President Donald Trump, who thinks global warming is a “hoax":

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
sveta_zarzamora / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Flexitarian Diet: Your Starter’s Guide and Sample Diet Plan

By Joe Leech

While there are many health benefits to being vegetarian, some of us don't want to completely cut out meat.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Pexels

Humanity Chopping Down Tree of Life, New Research Warns

By Jessica Corbett

Underscoring the urgent need for increased and intensely focused conservation efforts, new research shows that human activity worldwide is wiping out plant and animal life—including our own—so rapidly that evolution can't keep up.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Drought and rising global temperatures could hasten the last call for beer. Pixabay

Climate Change Could Cause Global Beer Shortage

Climate change is coming for our beer. Rising global temperatures and widespread drought could cause yields of barley, a primary ingredient in beer, to decrease as much as 17 percent by the end of the century, according to a study published Monday in Nature Plants.

Decreases in the global supply of barley could ultimately cause "dramatic" regional decreases in beer consumption (-32 percent in Argentina, for instance) and corresponding increases in beer prices (+193 percent in Ireland, for instance), the study says.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
View of the damage caused by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, on Oct. 13. HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP / Getty Images

As Scientists Sound Climate Change Alarm, States Lead on Solutions

By Abigail Dillen

This column originally appeared in USA Today.

The world's leading panel of climate experts sounded the alarm this week that we are running out of time to get rising temperatures under control. Its latest report calls for "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented" steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, from worsening wildfires and extreme drought to rising sea levels and more powerful storms. It also reminds us what is at stake if we fail to act: our health, our food and water security, our environment and our economy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Paul Allen pictured in 2014. Courtesy of Vulcan Inc. / Beatrice de Gea

Paul Allen's Environmental Legacy Lives On

The world lost an important environmental icon on Monday with the passing of Paul G. Allen. He died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Seattle, according to his company Vulcan Inc. He was 65.

Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates and owned the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, was also a major philanthropist devoted to making the world a better place.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rangers tranquilized a bear cub to free him from a plastic jar. Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Wildlife & Heritage Service

Rangers Free Bear Cub From Plastic Jar After Three-Day Search

A Maryland bear cub got himself into a sticky situation over the weekend.

The 100-pound male bear earned himself the nickname "Buckethead" when he got his head stuck in a plastic jar in search of a tasty snack, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Arkhip Vereshchagin / TASS / Getty Images

Trump Admin Plans to Use West Coast Military Bases to Ship Coal, Natural Gas

The Trump administration is considering using military bases to export coal and natural gas as a way to override state opposition to building private export terminals, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke told the AP.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
San Juan National Forest. Scrubhiker (USCdyer) / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Trump Plan to Ramp Up Fracking, Mining in National Forests Threatens Climate

The Trump administration's plan to make it easier for industry to frack and mine in national forests would endanger the climate, wildlife and watersheds, the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups said in comments submitted Monday to the U.S. Forest Service.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!