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Water Towers

Scientists at NWT have documented how high-elevation mountain ecosystems serve as "water towers" to store seasonal snow until it is released later in the year during snowmelt runoff. Every year this melting snow provides large quantities of high quality water that drives the economy and the ecology of the western United States.

Much of our research at NWT LTER is related to how changes in climate may affect snow properties, and in turn how changes in snow properties relate to ecosystem changes.

Caine, N. 2002. Declining ice thickness on an alpine lake is generated by increased winter precipitation. Climatic Change, vol 54 pp. 463-470.
Clow, D.W. 2010. Changes in the timing of snowmelt and streamflow in Colorado: A response to recent warming. Journal of Climate, vol 23 pp. 2293-2306, doi:10.1175/2009JCLI2951.1.
Liu, F.; Williams, M.W.; Caine, N. 2004. Source waters and flow paths in an alpine catchment, Colorado Front Range, United States. Water Resources Research, vol 40 , W09401, doi:10.1029/2004WR003076.
Digging a snow pit to measure temperature, snow density, and snow grain qualities at various depths in the snow cover profile.
Tim Bardsley
Ice thickness for an alpine lake, Green Lake 4, showing a decline in ice depth (and duration) over time (updated from Caine 2002).



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