From Community to Continent: How Tree Rings are Preparing the West for Dwindling Snowpacks
Dr. Bethany Coulthard
Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research
University of Arizona
Abstract: Snowpacks have been declining across the western United States since 1950, punctuated by record-breaking snow deficits and water supply shortages in nearly every western state in 2015. This trend is only projected to continue over the 21st century. With snow meltwater making up two thirds is reservoir inflows, long-term water management planning and climate change adaptation critically depends on understanding long-term ‘natural’ snowpack dynamics and to what extent they are changing in this region. But, climate models still can’t reliably simulate the snow system at local scales that are most important for decision-making. In this talk I will explain how tree-rings can be used to tackle this problem, including 1) how trees record snow, 2) our development of the Western Cordilleran Snow Atlas, the highest space-time resolution snow data currently in existence, and 3) a case study of collaborations with the Cowichan First Nation (British Columbia, Canada) to use tree-ring based snowpack records in tribal water management.