Why Winter Matters
Snow isn’t just a fun thing to slide on… It’s a crucial source of water, a major economic driver, and vital for natural ecosystems to function.
Here are the general trends scientists predict for the Intermountain region of Montana:
■ More heat.Temperature increases in the West are likely to be even greater than the projected 3° to 10°F worldwide increase by the end of the 21st Century.
■ Smaller snowpacks.It is very likely that more winter precipitation will fall as rain.
■ Earlier snowmelt.Warming earlier in the year very likely will melt snowpacks sooner.
■ More evaporation and dryness.Higher temperatures would increase evaporation from streams and reservoirs, soil dryness, and the needs of crops and other plants for supplemental water.
■ More flood-control releases.Warming in the mountains in late winter and early spring very likely will increase snowmelt and river flows then, and reduce them later in the year.
■ Less groundwater.Snowpacks also are essential contributors to the West’s groundwater.
■ More legal restrictions.Environmental constraints, which sometimes now limit the water available for consumptive use in the West, may be triggered more often as a result of climate disruption.
■ More droughts.Climate disruption could lead to more intense, frequent, and longer-lasting droughts in the interior West.
A sufficient snowpack is essential for the ski industry in the west.
More than 23 million people participated in winter sporting activities (measured through visits to downhill ski resorts and snowmobiling), adding an estimated $12.2 billion in economic value to the U.S. economy, through spending at ski resorts, hotels, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and gas stations.
Some 38 states experienced added value to their economies from downhill ski and snowboard visits, and snowmobiling trips.