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Have the Sierra Nevadas become one degree Celsius warmer in the past century?

By Austin Tannenbaum on 03/13/2023


Since the 1930s, the Sierra Nevada mountain region in Eastern California has warmed by an average of 1.2 degrees Celsius, or 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a study published last month in PNAS Nexus, an open access scientific journal. Researchers attribute the warming to anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change.

In addition to creating warmer, dryer conditions that make forest fires more likely, researchers highlighted the “vegetation climate mismatches” created by rising temperatures, reporting that a fifth of the region’s conifer trees are now in habitats that have grown too warm for them. These “zombie forests” are likely to be replaced by trees better suited to the elevated temperatures following subsequent forest fires.

The Sierra Nevadas have received near-record snowfall this winter, but experts caution that it will take more than one season to offset the region’s long-term trend toward drought.

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