Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

After the President’s speech on climate change this morning, and looking ahead to a hot weekend, we find our thoughts turning to snow.  Specifically, Los Angeles’s precious local mountain snowpack.  Why is this snowpack important (outside of skiing considerations), you might ask?  In a lot of ways, it is a measure of the impact of climate change on our region.

Snowfall is one of the ways LA gets its water.  Less snowfall equals less local water.  Consequently, more energy has to be used to import water from neighboring regions and other states (where ecosystems are also predicted to become much drier).

The forecast is that LA will be receiving less snowfall in its mountains because it’s going to become flat-out hotter.  The number of days when the temperature in our region exceeds 95°F is expected to increase substantially in the next 30 years, according to a new study from UCLA led by climate expert Alex Hall, meaning:

  • Coastal areas and central LA—the areas with the highest populations—will see extreme heat days triple.
  • The San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys will see extreme heat days almost quadruple.
  • Desert and mountain areas will see extreme heat days increase by five to six times the current number.

If we don’t take significant action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, Los Angeles area mountains will lose upward of half of their annual snowfall in the next 40 years.  But if we succeed in reducing these emissions, we can effectively double the total number of inches of snowfall for all our local mountains.

But emission reduction sounds complex, right?  Wrong.  It’s as easy as planting a tree. One large tree will absorb eight to ten tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over its lifetime.  In hot, dry climates (such as ours) the same tree, planted strategically, will cut energy use for cooling by 30 percent, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by another 20 tons.

We can also make every drop of rain count.  Transporting water to satisfy LA’s thirst is the single largest use of electricity in our state.

Essentially, what’s needed to ensure a sustainable future is for us to take personal responsibility for the urban environment.  That’s our mission here at TreePeople.

By Lisa Cahill

Lisa Cahill first began her work with TreePeople as a volunteer Citizen Forester. She currently serves on the board of directors for the reDiscover Center, continues to volunteer as a Citizen Forester, has been on the Mar Vista Green Garden Tour and serves on several green committees at her church and children's schools. She most enjoys working in the garden with her husband, watching her children and vegetables grow.