Simplifying How (and When and Where) Snow Turns into Flow

Simplifying How (and When and Where) Snow Turns into Flow

News Type: State, Regional Source: EOS
Click here to read the article: https://eos.org/articles/simplifying-how-and-when-and-where-snow-turns-into-flow

In Montana, the tiny streams that trace through mountains do more than feed the mighty Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. They could hold great power as a bellwether for climate change.

With scant summer rain, almost all of the precipitation that matters for watersheds comes from winter snowfall. And therein lies the key to its predictive power, explained Rebekah Levine, geomorphologist and assistant professor in the Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Montana Western in Dillon. “If we lose snow early, we also lose late-season base flow, so these streams will go dry. That’s what people are really worried about,” she said.

Dry streams in Montana mean low flows in some of the mightiest rivers in the country when summer and growing seasons for agriculture are in full swing. But what if there were a way to use snowfall patterns early in the year to anticipate dry conditions later?