By Danielle Chavira

(CBS4) – A new study from researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found more snow is melting during the winter in the western North America. The study compiled 40 years of data from more than 1,000 automated snow measurement stations from Mexico to the Alaskan Arctic.

Snowmelt increased by an average of 3.5% per decade.

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Colorado River (credit: CBS)

Scientists say the trend could impact everything from ski conditions to fire danger and agriculture.

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The findings were published in Nature Climate Change. Researchers say the data suggests there might be fewer days of “pristine powder” for skiers and snowboarders.

“Historically, water managers use the date of April 1 to distinguish winter and spring, but this distinction is becoming increasingly blurred as melt increases during the winter,” said Noah Molotch, co-author on the study, associate professor of geography and fellow at INSTAAR.

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Researchers also say wetter soil in the winter could mean an increased threat of flash flooding in the spring and microbes waking up earlier than they normally do, which would affect nutrient availability, water quality and increased carbon dioxide emissions.

Danielle Chavira