Snow in mountainous regions is a key water resource from local to continental scales. However, the link between increasingly frequent snow droughts and socio-hydrologic impacts from headwaters to lowlands is not fully understood. To untangle this relationship, here we combine snow and climate reanalyses with a range of data of terrestrial water storage, streamflow, and emergency water-use restrictions for the archetypal 2022 snow drought in the Po basin (Italy). We find that a persistent high-pressure ridge during winter 2021–2022 translated into a −88% anomaly in peak snow water equivalent, intraseasonal snowmelt, and earlier melt-out dates. Compounded by reduced summer precipitation and importantly increased temperatures, this snow deficit led to the lowest terrestrial water storage on record in summer 2022. Emergency water-use restrictions were concurrent with the peak in snowmelt deficit in early summer, rather than the peak in precipitation deficit in mid-winter. This study highlights the contribution of snowmelt deficit in driving the 2022 socio-hydrologic drought in the Po Basin.
Avanzi, F., Munerol, F., Milelli, M. et al. Winter snow deficit was a harbinger of summer 2022 socio-hydrologic drought in the Po Basin, Italy. Commun Earth Environ 5, 64 (2024).
We are grateful to all regional-to-local offices who supported the collection of emergency water-use restrictions for this manuscript. The study received partial support from the EU Horizon 2020 under Grant Agreement no. 101037193.