Thursday | December 14, 2017
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No snow on summits by 2100?: Climate researchers make dire prediction for Big Island mountains

International Pacific Research Center researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa are predicting the permanent end of snowfalls on Big Island summits by 2100.

Chunxi Zhang, lead author of “Monitoring and Projecting Snow on Hawaii Island,” said in an article in the journal Earth’s Future that by the end of the century, neither Mauna Kea nor Mauna Loa will have significant snowfall.

Zhang and his team used satellite data to track snowfall from 2000-15, said Rachel Lentz, an IPRC spokeswoman.

Research by the team, published previously in an American Meteorological Society journal, concluded temperatures will increase on land in Hawaii between 36 and 39 degrees if global warming continues, with the amount of temperature change greatest at higher altitudes.

Cloud cover will increase, with more rain on the windward sides of the islands, and “dry leeward sides will generally have even less clouds and rainfall.”

Robert Ballard, science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said it’s not possible to validate the study, so it’s not possible to determine what potential weather effects might occur as a result of the snow dissipation study.

Lentz said Zhang developed a technique to downscale his studies so they can identify what will happen in a local region instead of nationally or globally.

“It’s really spectacular work, actually,” Lentz said. “I’m very impressed by it.”

Zhang said “for the next 20 to 30 years, we probably don’t need to worry much about precipitation and freshwater resources.”

But in the long term, with greenhouse gases affecting climate, “the atmosphere keeps warming,” he said. “So we need to worry about precipitation change, climate change.”

Snow will decrease, Zhang said, but pop-up thunderstorms likely will increase over the Big Island.

“It’s more complicated than we expected,” he said.

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“Monitoring and Projecting Snow on Hawaii Island”


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