Societal impacts of cryosphere change in the North American Cordillera
As climate change impacts the cryosphere, more snow will fall as rain. Combined with rapid shrinking of glaciers, this affects the ability of the North American Cordillera to serve as a “water tower” for western North America, reducing its capacity to store freshwater year-round. Rising temperatures therefore will diminish the supply of freshwater downstream, threatening the availability of drinking water and carrying economic harm for farming. This will particularly impact the southwestern US, where rising temperatures have already paired with snowpack loss, leading to ever more severe drought conditions.Cryosphere change also is increasing the risk and unpredictability of natural hazards in the North American Cordillera. Retreating glaciers lead to increased risk of hazards such as landslides and floods, and decreasing snowpack increases the risk of wildfires, as well as catastrophic events such as mudslides in the wake of such wildfires. This causes loss of life and costly damage to infrastructure.Additionally, decreases in snow cover negatively impact snow tourism in North America – an important factor in many local economies.