Wildfires now reaching higher altitudes that are usually colder and wetter: Find out what that means

Snow blankets the burn scar from 2020’s East Troublesome Fire in the high country near Grand Lake, Colorado. Courtesy of Nick Hanson

Luke 21:11 “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Wildfires are burning away the West’s snow
  • Researcher Stephanie Kampf’s team set out to determine whether more wildfires are burning at high elevations. The answer is unequivocally yes. And the consequences are dramatic: Snow in wildfire-burned areas is melting 18 to 24 days earlier than average.
  • The snowpack is critical… it contributes 20% to 90% of surface water used for agriculture, energy production, aquatic species habitat and more.
  • “What this study shows nicely is that fires are moving into places that we would think of as being more resistant because they’re cooler and wetter”
  • The study also found that snow in burned areas contains less water
  • Downstream water managers might need to prepare for an earlier melt-off that will contribute to reservoirs much earlier than needed.

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