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More snow melting from mountains earlier in year due to climate change: study

Snow-capped mountains near Canmore, Alta. can be seen in this Jan. 19, 2016 photo. A new study says mountain snowmelt is happening earlier in the year, which could have serious ecological impacts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh TORONTO — Climate change is causing more snow to melt in the mountains, which could impact agriculture and increase the risk of flooding and wildfires, according to a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change.

Researchers based at the University of Colorado Boulder examined 40 years of data from 1,065 automated stations in western Canada and the United States and found that more snow is melting earlier in the year.

At 42 per cent of the stations, researchers found that the percentage of annual melt that occurs before April 1 is increasing by 3.5 per cent per decade.

Researchers say the increasing number of stations with earlier snowmelt can be explained by increasing temperatures. In 2009, only 12 per cent of stations experienced significant warming. By 2019, the figure was 46 per cent.

“Particularly in cold mountain environments, snow accumulates over the winter—it grows and grows—and gets to a point where it reaches a maximum depth, before melt starts in the spring,” said lead study author […]

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