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Why Snow?

The Importance of Snow

Snow is one of our planet’s most precious resources. It supports a considerable percentage of the world’s agriculture, underpins a wide range of industries including power generation, and supports a multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry. Climate-driven changes in snow cover, now clearly underway, will have pronounced ramifications for our economic and social well-being because of the beneficial value of snow. These climate-driven changes will also impact in ways unknown transportation and commerce, where it tends to have an adverse effect as a weather and road hazard. Combined, the widespread impact of snow, both positive and negative, demands that we understand where it is, how much of it there is, and how its amount and distribution is changing over seasons and decades. This information is of particular relevance in regards to water availability, food production, and power generation.  It is equally important in our efforts to predict the future trajectory Earth’s climate, in which snow plays an outsized role. Snow properties like albedo, surface roughness and thermal conductivity control the surface energy budget when the ground is snow-covered. We can succinctly summarize the importance of snow to life on earth by stating “Snow: it quenches our thirst and cools our planet.

All photographs copyright M. Sturm unless otherwise noted.