Colorado Will Experience 50 Percent Reduction in Snow by 2080, Study Finds

In a new study published in the journal 'Earth and Space Science,' researchers found that Colorado will soon experience a significant reduction in snow.

An aerial shot of the Rocky Mountains in May 2022

Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

An aerial shot of the Rocky Mountains in May 2022

In a new scientific study published in the journal Earth and Space Science, researchers project the snow-dominant mountains of Colorado will dry out over the next several decades.

According to the lead author of the study, which cites climate-driven changes in stream flows and snowmelt, scientists predict Colorado will see a 50 percent to 60 percent reduction in snow by 2080.

“Changes in future climate within the Colorado River Basin are especially concerning due to the CRB’s reliance on high-elevation snowpack for annual runoff,” the study states. “The combined pressures of increasing vapor pressure deficit and loss of snowmelt could drive this region to experience a severe decrease in existing soil moisture, regardless of precipitation changes.”

The researches note that previous studies of snowpack trends in Colorado have found that “while large snowpack losses have been observed in mid-altitude areas, the relatively higher altitude regions have experienced little to no change in the snowpack.”

As a result of rising temperatures, scientists project a wide shrinking of snow in Colorado and surrounding “upper basin” states such as Wyoming and Utah.

“We’re not saying Colorado is going to become a desert. But we see increased aridity moving forward,” hydrologist Katrina Bennett at the federal government’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico told the Denver Post.

Bennett added, “In some parts of Colorado, we will see a higher-elevation preservation of snowpack, because it is so high. But other areas like the San Juan Mountains were seen to be losing snowpack significantly.”

Latest in Life