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Mountain West experts leading federal effort to advance climate change projections

 A downed tree being removed from a river. There are two big tree removal machines
Maria Palma
/
KUNR
A downed tree is removed from the Truckee River near downtown Reno after collapsing from heavy, wet snow last winter.

The federal government is spending $7 million to improve climate projections years – and decades – in advance. That’s to help communities and industries better plan for the effects of climate change.

The funding will support 13 projects to advance projections of extreme weather such as heat waves, tropical storms, and climate drivers such as El Nino. It comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the Inflation Reduction Act.

One project is a collaboration between the University of Colorado Boulder, Utah State University, Desert Research Institute in Reno, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Researchers will assess how climate change will impact future snow loads – the force put on a building’s roof when snow or ice piles up – and rainfall on top of snow.

The goal is to help engineers in cold climates prevent buildings from breaking or collapsing, said Dan McEvoy, a professor of climatology at the Desert Research Institute.

“If you have snow on the ground or on top of a building structure, and you have rainfall on top of that, it's likely going to greatly increase the loading, or the weight that's on top of that snowpack,” McEvoy said.

The three-year project, which was awarded nearly $600,000 in federal funding, will inform industry building codes recommended by the American Society of Civil Engineers, McEvoy added.

Another project led by Colorado State University aims to improve projections of hydroclimate, the interaction between climate and water resources. Researchers, who are receiving nearly $600,000 in funding, will focus on the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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