Climate change will leave Australia’s mountain resorts almost snow-free: New study

Australian snow resorts like Thredbo face a grave risk as snow becomes a thing of the past. of climate impact.

Australian snow resorts like Thredbo face a grave risk as snow becomes a thing of the past. of climate impact. Photo:

Global warming will hit the world’s ski resorts hard, but the alpine playgrounds in Australia and New Zealand will suffer the worst climate and environmental damage

Ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand will be the worst affected globally by reduced snowfall due to climate change, a study has warned.

Researchers predict that by 2071–2100 average annual snow cover days will decline 78 per cent in the Australian Alps and 51 per cent in New Zealand’s Southern Alps under a high emissions scenario.

They found annual snow cover in all major skiing regions are projected to fall dramatically, with one in eight ski areas worldwide losing all natural snow cover by the end of the century.

These changes will impact local economies, as well as threaten fragile alpine ecosystems as ski resorts look to move or expand to higher remote areas, the report’s authors say.

German climate experts

The results are published in a new study by Veronika Mitterwallner and colleagues at the University of Bayreuth, Germany.

They examined the impact of climate change on natural snow cover in seven major skiing regions: the European Alps, Andes Mountains, Australian Alps, Japanese Alps, New Zealand’s Southern Alps and the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains in the US.

The researchers used public climate data bases, enabling them to predict annual snow cover days for each ski area for 2011-2040, 2041-2070, and 2071-2100 under low, high, and very high carbon emissions scenarios.

“In all major ski regions, a substantial decrease in the number of days with natural snow cover is expected under every emission scenario assessed,” Ms Mitterwallner said.

Under the high emissions scenario, 13 per cent of ski areas are predicted to lose all natural snow cover by 2071-2100 and 20 per cent will lose more than half of their snow cover days per year.

Global melting

By 2071–2100, average annual snow cover days were predicted to decline most in the Australian Alps (78 per cent), the Southern Alps (51 per cent), followed by the Japanese Alps (50 per cent), Andes (43 per cent), European Alps (42 per cent), and Appalachians (37 per cent), with the Rocky Mountains predicted to have the least decline at 23 per cent relative to historic baselines.

The researchers say that diminishing snow cover may prompt ski resorts to move or expand into higher less populated areas, potentially threatening alpine plants and animals already under climate-induced strain

Resorts may rely on practices like artificial snow production, but regardless, the authors predict the economic profitability of ski resorts will fall globally.

“This study demonstrates significant future losses in natural snow cover of current ski areas worldwide, indicating spatial shifts of ski area distributions, potentially threatening high-elevation ecosystems.”


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