'Snow line' in Northern Sierra 1,200 feet higher than it was a decade ago

'Snow line' in Northern Sierra 1,200 feet higher than it was a decade ago

The average "snow line" in The Northern Sierra is 1,200 feet higher than it was a decade ago, according to scientists at the Desert Research Institute in Reno.

The snow line refers to the elevation in which snow turns to rain. A rise in the snow line means some elevations that once got snow, are now primarily getting rain instead.

The change in the snow line is so drastic, it has even surprised scientists.

"It's like, wow, that's more than I would've thought," said Ben Hatchett, a scientist at the Desert Research Institute. "I was certainly surprised to see such an abrupt change."

The recent findings come from a study that researchers from the Desert Research Institute participated in.

Scientists say the rising snow line can bring some major consequences including more severe flooding and changes in how reservoirs are managed.

"If we're getting precipitation falling as rain in the upper elevations, we're having to manage that as a hazard as in flooding, rather than a resource in terms of that snow accumulating and we don't worry about it until May, June, July [or] until it starts running off," said Hatchett.

Hatchett says ski areas could suffer as well.

The research pulls data back to 2008, which Hatchett admits is not very long. But he says it's important to keep tracking the snow line to see if it rises or falls. This, as climate models show a rising snow line is more likely.

"It's like that the increasing temperature trend will continue. That's predicted by all of the global climate models," said Dan McEvoy, a researcher at the Desert Research Institute. "That means that the snow levels are likely to continue rising as we go into the middle and end of this century."

To read the full study, click here.

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