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Picture of the Day

Rain-on-snow flood risk to increase in many US mountain regions

Flooding caused by rain falling on snowpack could more than double by the end of this century in some areas of the Western U.S. and Canada due to climate change, according to new National Science Foundation-funded research. The greatest flood risk increases are projected for the Sierra Nevada, the Colorado River headwaters and the Canadian Rocky Mountains -- places where residents are no strangers to flood concerns. Conversely, lower elevations in coastal regions of California, Oregon, Washington and maritime British Columbia could see decreases in rain-on-snow flood risk. Rain-on-snow events vary widely in timing and scale but can cause costly and damaging flooding as rapid snowmelt triggered by heavy and prolonged rainfall converge in a cascade that can overwhelm downstream rivers and reservoirs. In 2017, California's Oroville Dam's main flood control spillway eroded due to such an event, leading to the evacuation of 188,000 people and $1 billion in infrastructure damages. To study the past, present and potential future of rain-on-snow events, the researchers turned to a state-of-the-art weather modeling dataset developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Known as CONUS 1, the dataset contains weather simulations across the continental U.S. in the current climate and a warmer future based on projected climate trends. The enormous data trove -- which took NCAR's Yellowstone supercomputer more than a year to compile -- offers unprecedented detail and resolution.

Visit Website | Image credit: William Croyle, California Department of Water Resources