Ski trips to Europe’s mountainous regions could soon become a thing of the past due to a lack of snow caused by climate change, a new study warns.
The researchers found that 91 percent of European ski resorts are at “high risk” of having too little snow if temperatures rise by just 5.4°F (3°C), the level expected this century under current conditions. emission reduction policies.
But if emissions are reduced and temperature rises limited to 1.5°C (2.7°F) – a limit set by the Paris Agreement – only 32 percent of resorts would be at high risk. .
Resorts may have to rely heavily on snow machines to save their ski seasons, but these have carbon footprints of their own, experts say.
Already this year, worrying images revealed desolate areas of land exposed due to melting ice, ruining the ski season for visitors.
The map shows the distribution of ski resorts in the mountainous areas of Europe. If temperatures rise by just 5.4°F (3°C), then 91 percent of European ski resorts would be at high risk of having too little snow, the new study says.
The new study was led by scientists from the Météo-France meteorological service and the INRAE research institute in Paris, who created simulations of snow cover based on climate data.
“Ski tourism is a substantial component of the economy of Europe’s mountainous regions and is highly vulnerable to the scarcity of snow, which is increasing due to climate change,” they say in Nature Climate Change.
“We show that the risk of snow supply for ski tourism increases with the level of global warming.”
The study looked at 2,234 ski resorts in 38 European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Norway, Turkey, Iceland, and the United Kingdom (particularly Scotland).
The study only considered Europe, as it is home to around half of the world’s ski resorts and has the world’s largest market for ski tourism.
Europe also has more than 80 percent of the world’s ski resorts that receive more than a million skier visits a year.
The researchers looked at simulated snow conditions (with and without artificial snow production and under past and future weather conditions) at individual outdoor ski resorts.
They didn’t look at indoor ski resorts, which work differently and whose operations are not directly influenced by the weather.
Ski resorts experienced excessive heat during the winter season, affecting business and the quality of skiing. In the photo, the alpine station of Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, December 31, 2022.
Skiers ride a chairlift in Villars-sur-Ollon on December 31, 2022 with disappointingly slow and muddy below them.
Ski regions with high risk of losing snow
Below is the percentage of ski resorts by region with a very high risk of no snow if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by just 5.4°F (3°C):
- 87% in the Swiss Alps
- 70% in the Nordic mountains
- 93% in the French Alps
- 94% in the Austrian Alps
- 100% in the German Alps
- 100% in the Italian Alps
- 100% in Türkiye
- 91% in the Carpathians
- 100% in the British Isles
- 100% in the Apennines
- 98% in the Pyrenees
- 100% in the Iberian mountains
They found that if temperatures rise by 5.4°F (3°C) – roughly the level expected for this century under current emissions reduction policies – 91 per cent of European ski resorts would be at high risk of having very little snow.
If we look at the regions individually, 100 percent of the ski resorts in the German Alps, the Italian Alps, the Apennines, the Iberian mountains, Turkey and the British Isles would face a high risk of insufficient snow supply.
This would be 87 percent in the Swiss Alps, 70 percent in the Nordic mountains, 93 percent in the French Alps, 94 percent in the Austrian Alps, 91 percent in the Carpathians, and 98 percent in the Pyrenees.
As expected, a less severe increase in temperatures (2.7°F/1.5°C) would greatly reduce the percentage of resorts threatened by region, including just five percent in the Swiss Alps, four percent in the French Alps and seven percent in the Swiss Alps. percent in the Austrian Alps.
The researchers point out that all these figures are obtained without the use of making artificial snow.
Ski resorts already use machines that create artificial snow to extend their ski seasons, but the authors believe this will have to become more common.
Typically, these machines expose the water to cold air to turn it into fine ice crystals that are ejected onto the ski slopes.
Even with heavy snow production, around half of Europe’s ski resorts would struggle with lack of snow. In the photo, a snow gun spraying artificial ice crystals.
Mild winter weather in the Swiss Alps disrupted the activity of alpine ski resorts below 2,200 meters above sea level.
Snowmaking will not always be able to keep up with rising temperatures and will require large amounts of energy and water to operate, but this would be a driver of carbon emissions.
Overall, the team says their results provide a basis for producing local studies on the impact of climate change in Europe that are specific to ski resorts.
These could include maps of each that take into account artificial snowmaking methods and the availability of energy resources to support snowmaking.
“This information is essential to inform climate action in mountainous areas at all relevant decision scales,” they conclude.
The impact of ‘global boiling’: Shocking before-and-after photos reveal how much the Greenland ice sheet melted during ‘hottest month ever recorded on Earth’
Shocking before-and-after photos reveal how much the Greenland ice sheet melted during the “hottest month ever recorded on Earth.”
Taken on June 14, the first image ever taken by a US satellite shows the Greenland ice sheet just before scorching summer temperatures set in.
Meanwhile, the second image from July 24 shows the same region with substantially less snow cover and patches of “dirty” ice where impurities have been exposed.
According to scientists, snow falls on the Greenland ice sheet each winter and acts as a protective shell for the ice from the glacier below during the summer.
But experts say warmer summer temperatures are reducing the amount of snow cover and making ice more prone to melting, contributing to sea level rise.