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UCLA predicts 40 percent drop in LA-area snowfall by mid-century due to climate change

Los Angeles could lose 40 percent of its snowfall by the middle of this century to climate change, predicts a new study from researchers at UCLA.

Lead researcher Alex Hall and his team used global climate models to project dramatic drops in snowfall in the region’s low-elevation mountains within 30 years – whether humans cut carbon emissions significantly or not.

In a scenario where global carbon emissions slow, the study predicts snowfall at 69% of present rates by the mid-21st Century.

If anthropomorphic contributions to greenhouse gases continue unchecked, snowfall will drop to 58% of present rates. “Areas of particularly noticeable loss [of snow] include the northern hills of the San Gabriel Mountains and the areas between the San Gabriel and Tehachapi Mountains,” write the authors.

The study is the second in which the UCLA team relies on complex calculations to forecast the impact of climate change on LA’s geography with deep precision. Meandering and jagged coastlines, mountains and canyons are represented in the analysis. By looking more closely at “micro” climate zones, researchers say they can create more accurate and more useful predictions on which southern California policymakers can rely.

For southern California mountain areas, winter’s snow sports bring tourists, money and jobs.

"It’s really great to hear about the study, because it’s just another tool that we can have to raise awareness of climate change when it comes to winter sports and recreation,” says Chris Steinkamp, with the group Protect Our Winters, which lobbies Congress on behalf of snow sport enthusiasts to take action on climate change. 

Steinkamp says UCLA’s study demonstrates how vulnerable resort towns like Big Bear are. “We work with a lot of professional athletes that ride up there, and we have friends that work in restaurants and small businesses up there,” Steinkamp says. “So when it doesn’t snow, those jobs are at stake. And it’s a really terrible situation in terms of the economy up there.”

To read the full article by Molly Peterson click here