Report finds that summer wildfires are affecting snowpack

A scorched forest
Spread the love

February 21, 2023 – Storms delivering above-average snowfalls this year have fueled western water users’ hopes for a better season, particularly given the restrictions, shortages and worries caused by drought the past couple of summers.

But a report published last week on, authored by researchers Ben Hatchett and Arielle Koshkin, dampens those hopes.

The authors identify five key findings in Severe Summer Wildfires Are Impacting Western U.S. Mountain Snowpack During Winter and SpringOpens in a new tab.:

  • Fires are burning higher in elevation, increasing the geographical overlap between burned areas and seasonal snow zones (areas with persistent snowpack throughout the winter season).
  • We found a 10-fold increase in fire in California’s seasonal snow zones in 2020–2021 versus 2001–2019.
  • Wildfires accelerate snowmelt resulting in earlier snow disappearance come spring.
  • Wildfire decreases the water stored in snow and alters the timing of snowmelt run-off. This creates a significant challenge for water managers to forecast runoff timing and volume.
  • Dry spells, which are long periods of no precipitation, increase the effects of wildfire on snow’s ability to store water.

“Midwinter drought, snow loss, and increasingly large, frequent, and severe wildfires are all expectations of a warming world,” the authors conclude. “Addressing the challenges brought by these changes requires innovative water and forest management plans to be formulated and quickly implemented. Our findings motivate additional research into assessing and planning for post-fire hydrologic changes in snow-dominated landscapes as both wildfire and dry spells will increase in frequency with climate warming.”


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Recent Posts

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Skip to content