You almost don’t want to hear the bad news when the good news is: If humans figure out a way to slow global warming, the Los Angeles region will lose just 31% of its mountainous snowfall by mid-century.
If they don’t, snowfall will decline about 42% and the view of snowcapped mountains from the L.A. Basin won’t be quite the same, according to a UCLA study (pdf) released this month. Only a third of the baseline snowfall (measured from 1981-2000) might be the norm by the end of the century.
The northern hills of the San Gabriel Mountains and the area between the San Gabriel and Tehachapi Mountains would suffer the most loss. A decline in snowfall poses a direct threat to drinking water, agriculture and tourism that would ripple through the economy. In some areas, at lower elevations, precipitation that would have been snow will, instead, be rain, which could impact flood control and cause damage to mountain and river ecosystems.
Alex Hall, a researcher on the report, told KPCC that the numbers are not precise predictions and, depending on what global model one chooses to use, can produce a range of estimates. “That loss may not be quite as great as the most likely estimate, or it might be quite a bit greater, but there definitely will be some kind of a loss, and it will probably be pretty significant,” he said.
This is the second study in a series on climate change in the Los Angeles area. The first, Mid-Century Warming in the Los Angeles Region, was published in June 2012. That study predicted the region will be 4 or 5 degrees warmer by mid-century and two cities with ski resorts, Wrightwood and Big Bear, would heat up the most.
The UCLA report was produced in partnership with the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. It received funding from the city of Los Angeles and the National Science Foundation.