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Researchers say snow pack will continue to shrink

Philip Mote

CORVALLIS, Oregon – A long-term study of the snow pack in the western United States shows it is, indeed, shrinking and that trend is expected to continue. The average snow pack has dropped by 15 to 30 percent over the last 60 years.

Oregon Climate Change Research Center Director Philip Mote says it’s not a matter of precipitation, but of warmer temperatures.

“It’s particularly noticeable in the Pacific states, Washington, Oregon and California,” he said. “Losses are largely because of warming trends.”

The amount of snow lost would fill Lake Mead in Nevada, the west’s largest reservoir. Mote said temperatures will continue to warm.

“We’ll see years like this becoming fairly common,” he said. “We’ve got significantly below normal snow pack.”

Mote says that the trend will continue to impact irrigators and fish passage negatively.

The Oregon Climate Change Research Institute was established within the Department of Higher Education in 2007. It is comprised of more than 150 researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, Portland State University, Southern Oregon University, and affiliated federal and state labs. It is administered by OSU and is housed in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.

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