In a megadrought like the one California is experiencing, people tend to look at how much rainfall has come along.
But it also matters when the snowmelt releases its cache, because the snowpack is the state’s natural reservoir.
“If you just change when the snow melts, it has huge consequences for the year,” said researcher Joseph Blankinship, a former UC Merced postdoctoral researcher who just published a paper in the journal Water Resources Research with UC Merced Professor Stephen Hart based on their Sierra snow research. “There are definite climate-change implications.”
Hart, with the School of Natural Sciences and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, and Blankinship, along with students, worked for three years, hauling bags of black sand into the mountains to artificially melt snow earlier than usual, mimicking the way the snowpack has been giving off liquid earlier and earlier every year. Right now, the snowmelt comes two to three weeks earlier than usual, but by the end of the century, it’s predicted to melt off two months earlier than normal.The hydrology journal is one of the most influential in the field, a further testament to the far-reaching research being conducted at UC Merced.