Home World Australian Alps will face world’s biggest snow loss by end of century, study finds

Australian Alps will face world’s biggest snow loss by end of century, study finds

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Australian Alps will face world's biggest snow loss by end of century, study finds

Global warming will cause snow cover in the Australian Alps to decline by 78% by the end of the century – far faster than declines estimated in six other major ski regions, new research suggests.

THE study published today Researchers from Germany’s University of Bayreuth have warned of the accelerating consequences of the climate crisis, predicting that 13% of ski areas across the world could lose all their natural snow cover in a future of high emissions.

“Over this century, ongoing climate change will globally result in a substantial reduction in the number of days of annual snow cover in current ski areas, regardless of the emissions scenario,” the study says .

“We expect a considerable increase in the number of completely snow-free ski areas in the future.”

The study focused on seven major mountain ski regions, including the European Alps, the Andes, the Appalachian Mountains, the Australian Alps, the Japanese Alps, the Southern Alps and the Rocky Mountains. For each, it assessed the consequences of three climate change scenarios: “low”, “high” and “very high” emissions.

In all three cases, the number of annual snow days in the seven main mountain regions where alpine skiing is practiced “will decrease significantly on a global scale.”

“Under a high emissions scenario, ski areas in the southern hemisphere… will be most severely affected by climate change,” the study says.

Australia’s rate of decline of 78% is by far the highest among the major ski regions assessed, including the European Alps at 42%, the Japanese Alps at 50% and the New Zealand Southern Alps at 51%.

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Ski areas located in highly populated areas are expected to be more affected by global warming, the study said, adding that the economic profitability of ski resorts around the world could fall due to decreasing snow cover.

The study predicted that technical and management strategies such as artificial snowmaking “are unlikely to constitute a sufficient compensatory measure in a severe climate change scenario”, although they are widely used at present to alleviate the snow shortage.

“Ski resorts may need to move or expand into less populated mountain areas and higher altitudes to combat the effects of climate change,” the study says.

“These results are worrying on a socio-economic and ecological level.”

Indeed, strategies such as slope contouring, landscaping and the development of new ski areas on north-facing and higher slopes are considered “threats to nature and unique mountain biodiversity”.

If skiing and its tourist value are of great importance for local economies, “the biodiversity of mountainous areas is already strongly affected by global warming”, indicates the study. “(It) is likely to experience additional pressure due to the expansion of ski areas and a concentration of skiers to higher altitudes.”

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