Forest fires playing a role in disappearing Northwest glacial ice

Forest fires playing a role in disappearing Northwest glacial ice

18 March 2015

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USA — With the Mt. Hood snowpack at record low levels, matching the spring months of 2005, concerns of a long fire season are very justified. It has been well documented that climate change is leading to an early snow melt during the spring season. The result has been lower river levels in mid and late summer and often, longer fire seasons.

The photo shows Mt. Hood Meadows Resort with barely two feet of snow on the slopes. The resort has been making the most of a snow pack 23% of normal and at record low levels.

New research conducted on Mt. Olympus in Washington State, verifies what seems to be obvious. For the first time, scientists have linked soot deposits from a known forest fire to increased water discharge from snow melt. Basically, soot and dust deposits on glaciers leads to greater absorption of the sun’s energy, increasing the rate of snow and glacial ice loss.

The concern is that a vicious cycle of early snow melt, leading to forest fires will in fact deposit soot, leading to escalating snow and glacial ice loss each summer season. Such a cycle would play a role in a further loss of glacial ice across Northwest mountains.

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