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Engaging AP package: Wildfires threaten snowpack, water supply

Snow hydrologist Anne Nolin, right, measures snow reflectivity at the site of the 2021 Caldor Fire near Twin Bridges, Calif., as raduate student Arielle Koshkin takes notes, April 4, 2022. As wildfires increase in severity and frequency across the West, researchers are studying how charred bark shedding from scorched trees may be contributing to an acceleration of snowmelt, possibly leaving less water flowing in the summer when it's most needed. (AP Photo / Brittany Peterson)

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Denver-based video journalist Brittany Peterson reported for all formats and collaborated with colleagues on a richly produced enterprise package that explores the impact of wildfires on water supply.

AP journalists know that readers are turned off by doom and gloom coverage of global warming but are interested in what can be done about climate change, both to mitigate its effects and adapt. We also know that in the field of climate science, women are not well represented.

With that in mind,Peterson,a member of AP’s team covering water issues,delivered with text,video and photos on an important process that scientists are still studying: the cascading effect of wildfires,particularly in the U.S. West where the fires are becoming more frequent and destructive. Researchers want to know if charred bark shedding from scorched trees is contributing to an earlier snowmelt to rivers,possibly leaving less water flowing in the summer when it’s most needed.

The package focused on a female climate scientist, snow hydrologist Anne Nolin — and how Nolin’s research might help local water managers guide decisions amid increasing water shortages which will only get worse in years to come.

Peterson’s text story was edited by Candice Choi,leader of the water coverage team,and the entire package was further elevated by strong visuals: Climate news director Peter Prengaman pitched in on the video elements,Seattle photographer Ted Warren handled photo editing and Top Stories photo editor Alyssa Goodman worked with Peterson on an immersive presentation that seamlessly wove together all the formats. The lead image — drone footage of patchy snow in a burned-out forest — immediately pulled in readers.

The package resonated with customers and readers,was used by dozens and dozens of websites and papers, and racked up some 2 million pageviews on AP’s Facebook page alone.

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