Colorado, Utah and Wyoming could be as dry as Arizona in the future, study says
A new study finds that the upper Colorado River basin is drying out due to climate change. This means in the future, parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming could more closely resemble Arizona and the desert Southwest.
Research from the Los Alamos National Laboratory predicts that mountain snow will start melting and running into streams and reservoirs much earlier.
Scientists used artificial intelligence to test out different climate models over the next 30 years. Although there was some uncertainty, those models generally pointed towards loss of high-altitude snowpack due to warmer temperatures.
Mountain snow is the largest source of water for the Colorado River, which supplies about 40 million people throughout the region.
The changes are part of a process called aridification — a long-term drying that means conditions previously considered to be drought are instead the new normal.
The study projects more arid conditions in the Green River Valley near the border of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Mountainous areas in Arizona will see much drier soil moisture, which soaks up runoff before it enters rivers and streams.