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EI Speaker Series

Department of Atmospheric Science

Wed., Apr. 11, 12:00 pm, Encana Auditorium

Impacts of Air Pollution and Climate Change on the Snowpack and Hydrological Cycle in the Rocky Mountains

Dr. Xiaohong Liu

University of Wyoming


A primary water resource in the inland western US comes from Rocky Mountains’ snowpack. Snowfall, snow accumulation and snow melting are sensitive to climate change. Meanwhile, light-absorbing aerosols (LAAs), such as black carbon and dust emitted from wildfires and wind-blown deserts, can induce the snow melting by increasing the snowpack impurities when deposit on snow. In this study, a new modeling approach, i.e., a variable resolution version of the NCAR Community Earth System Model (VR-CESM) is used to quantify the impacts of LAA deposition on snow and climate change on regional climate (e.g., snowpack) in the Rocky Mountain regions (RMR). VR-CESM well simulates regional climate in the RMR when evaluated against observations during the period of 1981-2005. Due to positive surface albedo feedbacks induced by LAAin-snow, snow water equivalent (SWE) is reduced by 2–50 mm and snow cover fraction (SCF) by 5–20% in the two regions around the mountains (eastern Snake River Plain and southwestern Wyoming) in winter and spring, corresponding to an increase in surface air temperature by 0.9–1.1 °C. Under the future climate with a medium mitigation scenario, namely Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5), annual surface air temperature increases by 3.3 ºC in the RMR, and ratio of snowfall to total precipitation reduces by 0.13. Because of less snowfall and accelerated snowmelt, annual SWE reduces by 13 mm and SCF by 8.3% in the RMR.

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Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307)766-3245


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