As scientists became more aware of the likely impacts of climate change, they have been trying to predict how things will change and how fast, often focusing on individual mountainous areas.
Below is a digest of some of their reports, with the headline findings and links to more detailed versions of the reports where available:
A study entitled ‘Climate Change in the Pyrenees: Impact, Vulnerability and Acclimatisation’ signed by more than 100 experts, revealed that the average temperature in the Pyrenees has increased by some 30 percent over the last 50 years, and found that this is only a sign of things to come. According to the report, the average maximum temperatures could increase from 1.4 to 3.3 degrees by 2050, and by the end of the century “would oscillate between 4.3 and 7.1 degrees” higher. This will lead to a “significant decrease in average snow depth”, impacting skiing of course, but more importantly impacting indigenous species.
Australia’s ski season could shrink by up to 80 days a year by 2050 under worst-case predictions for climate change according to climate modelling carried out by Australia’s national science agency The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is an independent Australian federal government agency. It warns that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, snow cover and duration will rapidly decline. The organisation predicts the average Australian snow season will shorten by at least 20-55 days.
An analysis of the impact of climate change in Bulgaria predicts a lengthened summer season and a serious threat to winter tourism. According to the analysis, published in 2014 on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Water, the projected increase in temperatures and the decrease in the number of rainy days in summer, spring and autumn are expected to result in a longer summer season at the expense of a shorter winter season. “Ski resorts and other activities related to winter tourism will be hardest hit by the climate change, which has a direct negative impact on the local communities depending on the jobs and the revenues generated by this type of tourism,” the report states.
There have been numerous studies in to the likely impact of climate change on Canada’s ski areas over the past two decades, some are updated annually. The ACC’s 2018 State of the Mountains Report concludes that by the end of this century, under the best-case scenario, coastal ski resorts in BC, Western Canada will probably become too warm to support skiing and snowboarding, and to even achieve this best-case scenario we needed immediate international government action and a change in global human behaviour back then.
Snow cover in the central Andes has diminished by five to 10 percent each decade, according to Raul Cordero, an academic at the University of Santiago. Rising temperatures mean the snow line — above which snow never melts all year round — keeps creeping upwards. “But it’s not just snow cover that’s decreasing, the thickness of the snow cover is also reducing,” he said. “So when we talk about a decrease of the cover of five to 10 percent, this probably signifies a much greater reduction in the volume of available snow over the Andes.” The snow melt is even more pronounced in the central zone due to pollution from the Chilean capital, one of the most contaminated urban areas in the region. A recent study led by Cordero found that soot, or black carbon, from Santiago was settling in the Andes
Two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers – the world’s “Third Pole” – could melt by 2100 if global emissions are not sharply reduced, scientists have warned in a major 2019 study. Even if the most ambitious Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is achieved, one-third of the glaciers would disappear, according to the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region are a critical water source for some 250 million people in the mountains, as well as to 1.65 billion others in the river valleys below, the 650-page report, five years in the making, and published by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal, one of eight countries on the front line. More than 350 researchers and policy experts, 185 organisations, 210 authors, 20 editors and 125 external reviewers contributed to its completion.
A 2016 study of two larger Alpine catchments ‘How much can we save? Impact of different emission scenarios on future snow cover in the Alps’ used automatic weather station data from two diverse regions in the Swiss Alps to compute snow cover for a 13 year reference period (1999–2012). Future temperature and precipitation changes were computed for three different emission scenarios, including one intervention scenario (2°C target) and for three future time periods (2020–2049, 2045–2074, 2070–2099). The projections reveal a decrease in snow depth for all elevations, time periods and emission scenarios. The non-intervention scenarios demonstrate a decrease of about 50% even for elevations above 3000m. Depending on the emission scenario and elevation zone the winter season starts half a month to 1 month later and ends 1 to 3 months earlier in this last scenario period with typical snow levels moving 500-1000 vertical metres up the mountain compared to today.
Sierra Nevada – Less Reliable Winter Snow Cover
An on-going study of snow cover in the Western USA has forecast that the likelihood of back-to-back bad-to-no snow years in the Western USA will increase from 7% currently to 40% by 2050. From 2012-2015 the Sierra Nevada mountains had their worst snow drought for at least 500 years.