DENVER (AP) — Global warming could mean that mountain snow melts at a slower pace, researchers said Monday, a peculiar finding that might be bad news for the West and other regions that depend on snow for water.
Scientists have long known the annual snowmelt is starting sooner as the climate warms. New research by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, found that when the snow begins to melt earlier in the season, it dissipates more slowly than it does in late spring or summer, in part because the angle of the early year sun is lower so its rays are less intense.
The sun’s intensity is particularly important because the energy in direct sunlight is the biggest driver of snowmelt, said Keith Musselman, the lead researcher.
Another factor that slows the snowmelt in the early season is the fact that nights are still cooler.
The conclusions, published in the…