Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Justin Pflug

Snow volume and spatial distribution are vital components of ecosystem health in mountainous terrain. However, our representations of snowpack at fine spatial scales, and its connections with snow-dependent species like wolverine and bull trout, are currently lacking. This is particularly true for expected changes in future climates, making our assessments of climate-driven threats to many wildlife species difficult to quantify. In this project, Justin Pflug, and CIRES sponsors Ben Livneh and Jennifer Balch, are investigating climate-driven impacts on mountainous snowpack and wildlife habitat. Using multidecadal snow reanalyses, which estimate snow volume and spatial distribution using historic satellite-based and ground-based observations, they seek to understand the connections between meteorological conditions and the resulting snow connectivity and streamflow. This information is crucial for our understanding of how historic periods with abnormal meteorological conditions could be applied to simulate snow in future years with analogous conditions. The results in this project will be used to inform how future species status assessments should be performed in many snow-covered mountainous landscapes.