"If you look at the trends across the state and east Idaho in particular, we've seen a slow rise in temperature really starting in the 1980s. It's fairly low though compared to other parts of the world."
Alex DeSmet explains to us that we have seen an increase in our temperatures over our recorded history.
That brings up the question of how much warming have we seen?
Dr. Luce answers, "So far what we've observed sort of between the 1950s and 1960s versus the present, on the order of 1 to 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit change in average annual temperature."
Meaning that a slight warming has occurred within the past 70 years.
How has this slight warming affected East Idaho?
Dr. Abatzoglou says, "Along with that warming right, some of the impacts that we see are that the snow lines go up, and so that the freezing elevations have effectively gone up on average about 500 feet."
How have the rising snow lines affected our snowpack?
Dr. Luce says that, "We're seeing more rain, less snow, and less snow storage. So, the April 1st snow water equivalent that the farmers look to as their guidance for how much water they might be getting that year, what we're seeing is less of that over time. There's a second influence going on that we've also detected which is the westerly winds have been slowing down, which is again something expected with climate change. And we've seen about on average a 20 percent decline in precipitation since the 1950s."
Meaning that we are seeing less water storage during our winter months.
But how can that be when some years have been recorded to be really snowy winters?
Alex DeSmet tells us, "The biggest signal that shows up is that year to year variability, so those are some of the longer term changes. In terms of change, we're fairing better than other parts of the world for sure because it's been much less."
In the next part of our series, we will be looking at the future impacts of climate change and how it can affect Eastern Idaho.