Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Climate:  Record Snowpacks Could Threaten Western States

Thanks to a blizzard-filled winter and an unusually cold and wet spring, more than 90 measuring sites from Montana to New Mexico and California to Colorado have record snowpack totals on the ground for late May, according to a federal report released last week.

Those giant and spectacularly beautiful snowpacks will now melt under the hotter, sunnier skies of June — mildly if weather conditions are just right, wildly and perhaps catastrophically if they are not.

Fear of a sudden thaw, releasing millions of gallons of water through river channels and narrow canyons, has disaster experts on edge.

Hydrologists, meanwhile, are cheering what they say will be a huge increase in water reservoir storage for tens of millions of people across the West. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, two huge dammed reservoirs on the Colorado River battered in recent years by drought, are projected to get 1.5 trillion gallons of new water between them from the mammoth melt.

For more, see Record Snowpacks Could Threaten Western States by Kirk Johnson and Jesse Mckinley, May 21, 2011 at NYTimes.com.

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