As wildfires intensify in the West, researchers are investigating how incinerated trees may lead to more rapid snow melt, and ultimately disrupt water supplies.
Several studies show that the absence of trees that provide shade and carbon capture, which boost sunlight absorption, means that snow in a burnt forest disappears up to several weeks earlier than snow in a healthy forest.
Dust, ash, and soot have a similar impact on snow, as they lead to it absorbing more light, known as the “albedo effect.” But Californian authorities have become more and more concerned about carbon absorbing even more.
Warming weather will be an indication of previous snowmelt and make places more susceptible to wildfires, said Noah Molotch, who investigates the water and snow cycles at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
So researchers want to learn how the double effect could disrupt our water supply, because climate change fuels the spread of forest fires throughout the West.