Winter in the Northern Hemisphere often means snow. Though a strong El Niño system is upending typical patterns, it’s still the season for snowmen and sledding. But some long-term trends in snowpack are causing concern.
This animated map explores the global average monthly snowpack since 2000. Using data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it tracks changes to snowpack volume and extent over time.
The video consists of two distinct phases, focusing on different aspects of snowpack. The first phase emphasizes monthly changes in the average snowpack over time. You can see the seasonal pulse of snowpack, with callouts for four mountainous regions across the planet. In each inset map, snowpack ranges recede over time. As do the average monthly minimum and maximum.
The video then rewinds back to 2000 and charts the monthly global snowpack for each year. Over time, lines stack lower and lower on the chart, showing a steady reduction in 23 years. While the pattern varies, the overall trend is clear.
Snowpack decline is most visible in mountainous regions, but no place on Earth seems to be immune. Since 1973, scientists have detected a 2.7% decline in annual snowfall. Less snowfall and snowpack can have severe impacts on global food and water systems. This map is a stark indicator that seasonal changes from events like El Niño won’t balance out the overall decline.