In a California forest torched by wildfire last summer, researcher Anne Nolin examines a handful of the season’s remaining snow, now darkened by black specks from the burned trees above. Spring heat waves had already melted much of the year’s limited snowfall across California and parts of the West when Nolin visited in early April. But she and her colleague are studying another factor that might’ve made the snow vanish faster in the central Sierra Nevada — the scorched trees, which no longer provide much shade and are shedding flecks of carbon. The darkened snow is "primed to absorb all that sunlight" and melt faster, said Nolin, who researches snow at the University of Nevada, Reno. As climate change fuels the spread of wildfires across the West, researchers want to know how the dual effect might disrupt water supplies. Communities often rely on melting snow in the spring to replenish reservoirs during dryer months. If snow melts earlier than normal, that would likely leave less water flowing in the summer when it's most needed, Nolin said. Multiple studies indicate that snow in a burned forest disappears up to several weeks sooner than snow in a healthy forest because of the… Read full this story
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