| Brodhead Watershed Association
Kerry: Time running out on climate change fix
US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry warned world leaders that the world is now in “the decisive decade” to limit the effects of climate change, and must “raise ambitions” to meet the challenge. (Feb 19)
Editor’s note: “Woods and Water” is an occasional feature focusing on the relation between land and water quality – and the conservation easements that help preserve our environment in the Brodhead watershed.
“I can see my breath!” the little girl shouts before she hurtles down the sledding hill at Skywood Park in Paradise Township.
That cloud of mist is the warm air from her lungs, saturated with water vapor, condensing in the cold winter air. Warm air holds lots more moisture than cold air does. Air that’s warmer by just two degrees can hold 7% more moisture.
On a sledding hill, that doesn’t matter much. It does matter when a storm forms over the ocean off New Jersey and Long Island — where our nor’easters organize themselves and where surface temperatures are running up to three degrees above average. Warm surface air guzzles that moisture, turns it into snow, and next thing you know, you’ve got a lot of shoveling to do.
In the forest, it’s the same story. Fueled by warmer air, this year’s heavier-than-normal storms have filled the woods with a nourishing blanket of snow. In forestland, though, snow pack is a blessing.
That’s because when trees are dormant, they don’t draw up the 100 gallons of water a day an old tree uses in summer to make leaves, catkins, acorns, or beechnuts. The snow pack also insulates the forest floor and keeps it from freezing hard. So on sunny days that are even a few degrees above freezing, the cushiony forest floor keeps snowmelt from running off, allowing it to seep into pore spaces and cracks in rock, infiltrating dozens and hundreds of feet underground, replenishing groundwater.
Just one acre of forest with a 10-inch snowpack can hold 30,000 gallons of water or more.
That precious, naturally filtered and purified groundwater — millions of gallons in the Brodhead watershed — explains why our creeks and streams continue to flow, even in long dry stretches of summer. It keeps wells producing, and provides water for businesses, for tourism, industry and agriculture, and drinking water for millions of Pennsylvania residents.
In fact, in an average year, 10% to 25% of the water that flows in streams and fills groundwater wells originates from melting snow.
For people who take the time to look, snow is also an open stage. Not just to showcase peace and beauty — or even for snowshoeing, snow hiking, snowball fights, and snow angels.
Its smooth surface tells stories. Where deer spent the night. Where voles and other…