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The potential for snow to supply human water demand in the present and future

Runoff from snowmelt is regarded as a vital water source for people and ecosystems throughout the Northern Hemisphere (NH). Numerous studies point to the threat global warming poses to the timing and magnitude of snow accumulation and melt. But analyses focused on snow supply do not show where changes to snowmelt runoff are likely to present the most pressing adaptation challenges, given sub-annual patterns of human water consumption and water availability from rainfall. We identify the NH basins where present spring and summer snowmelt has the greatest potential to supply the human water demand that would otherwise be unmet by instantaneous rainfall runoff.

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