Snow melt in the Andes is critical for water supply across Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, motivating analyses of snowpack variability for the development of water management strategies, particularly in light of anthropogenic climate warming. However, understanding of snowpack changes has been hampered by a sparse observational network. Freddy Saavedra from the Universidad de Playa Ancha, Chile, and colleagues use remote sensing data to investigate changes in mountain snowline elevation and snow persistence across a large swathe of the Andes (8–36° S) between 2000 and 2016.
It is found that regions south of 29° S have seen 2–5 fewer days of snow cover per year, raising the snowline by 10–30 m annually. These changes are largest in the winter seasonal snow zone, particularly in the eastern Andes, and are attributed to reductions in annual mean precipitation and increasing temperatures. North of 29° S, however, snow modifications are minimal, primarily due to low climatological coverage. Further work is required to determine whether such short-term perturbations reflect long-term trends, but the results illustrate the need for continued snow monitoring to inform future water planning.
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Simpkins, G. Disappearing Andean snow. Nature Clim Change 8, 359 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0168-z