North American mountains get almost triple the snow previously thought | Science

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Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via Associated Press

Snowboarders, rejoice! North America gets a lot more snow than previously presumed—so much that each year if spread evenly across the continent, it would add up to about 19 centimeters. And if piled up only in Ohio, the snow would be a whopping 45 meters deep (about the height of the Statue of Liberty, sans its pedestal).  

Those figures come thanks to a new analysis in which researchers used computer simulations to estimate the typical annual snowfall in each of 11 North American mountain ranges. After supercomputer simulations of regional climate that would have taken 50 years on the average laptop, the team found that those mountain ranges receive about 3018 cubic kilometers of snow a year. Although those ranges together cover only about 25% of the area stretching from the Arctic Ocean down to Mexico’s southern border, they get about 60% of its snow, the researchers report in Geophysical Research Letters. That’s nearly three times the estimate for mountain snow from one previous study, the team notes.

When the researchers combined their new estimate with another team’s value for snow in the continent’s nonmountainous areas, they reckon that North America each year gets about 5052 cubic kilometers of snow—enough to cover unglaciated areas of the continent to a depth of about 6.4 centimeters (2.5 inches) of water once it melts. Good luck when that refreezes, New England.



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