CLIMATE CHANGE: An in-depth look at how global warming will affect the Sierra Nevada | SierraSun.com

CLIMATE CHANGE: An in-depth look at how global warming will affect the Sierra Nevada

Photo Illustration by Greyson Howard, Sierra SunA small aspen sappling near Alder Creek. Dependant on moist stream environments, aspen may run into problems when snow melts earlier and streams go dry as temperatures rise.
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In a two-part series on climate change, Sierra Sun staff writers Julie Brown and Greyson Howard look into the effects global warming will have on the ski industry and local ecosystems.

By Julie BrownSierra SunPicture this: Strong gusts of wind are blowing in another storm and snow is dumping on the highest peaks in Tahoe.But drop down a couple thousand feet or so into the valleys and canyons of the Sierra Nevada, the mountain towns and ski resort villages, to the shores of Lake Tahoe its raining.Instead of the blanket of snow typically seen today, deserted chairlifts at the bases of ski resorts swing in the wind over bare rocks and patches of snow. A new state-of-the-art tram takes skiers up to the mountains upper elevations above the snowline.The once legendary winters of the Sierra Nevada have shortened and drop less snow.This portrait, according to climate change projections cast by local, state and national scientists, may no longer be fiction by the end of the century or even in fifty years.And ski resorts are well aware of what climate change scientists are saying…

By Greyson HowardSierra SunMany doomsday predictions of climate change focus on rising oceans, flooding coastlines and submerged cities, but some scientists are watching the Sierra to gauge other significant impacts.Looking into the future it isnt hard for researchers to picture the many different Sierra ecosystems wrapped like bands around different elevations retreating rapidly upward, squeezing each other and eventually running out of elevation to climb.As future temperatures rise, predictions are for snow to melt faster and streams to swell earlier, out of sync with the breading cycles of aquatic species like fish and frogs.Dry summers would leave entire forests more susceptible to fire and pests than ever before.And, many experts agree, the changes become amplified as they move up the food chain, throwing the Sierra Nevadas entire ecosystem, meticulously established over millennia, out of balance in a matter of decades.The bottom line, some scientists conclude, is the extinction of vulnerable mountain species and increased fire risk for the Sierras human inhabitants…