The glaciers in Peru have lost 22% of their area in the last 27 years.
According to the National Climactic Data Center in the US, the
global combined average land and sea temperatures were the warmest
on record for September - November 2004. That's bad news for winter
sport. A UN report states the obvious: "Climate change is a severe
threat to snow related sports such as skiing, snowboarding and
Before we all go and buy hang-gliders, can't we just use more
snow machines? Possibly, but that solution doesn't take into
account the fact that the availability of water for making snow may
be more limited in future, not to mention that it's going to cost a
lot more to make that much snow - you and I won't be able to afford
to go skiing anyway. According to projected ski season losses, the
amount of snowmaking required could increase by 36 - 144 percent in
the 2020s and 48 - 187 percent in the 2050s in Canada alone. That's
a lot more snow machines.
In the UK, there has been an unmistakable pattern of snow
decline, to the point that Scottish ski centres have been
diversifying into other businesses including golf, go-carting and
paragliding. In fact, the European Environment Agency published a
disturbing report in 2004 saying that Europe is warming up more
quickly than the rest of the world and cold winters could disappear
almost entirely by 2080.
Apart from the entrepreneurial Scots, a lot of the tourism
industry seems to be in denial. The United Nations report from
December 2003 says that tourism representatives are still playing
down the consequences of climate change. On the other hand, they
seem to be more than happy to cite global warming when they need
arguments for buying new snow machines, extending existing ski runs
and opening new higher altitude ski resorts!
It's not just less snow, fewer glaciers and warmer temperatures
that are the problems - climate change brings with it unpredictable
weather events and melting snow which can cause landslides. In 1999
the 'avalanche winter' in Switzerland damaged 20 ski lifts, 11
chair-lifts, 4 cable railways and 1 funicular, costing up to US$130
million. Researchers in Zurich also say that huge swathes of ice
needed to support plant and animal life in the mountains have
already disappeared, causing other dangers such as rock slides
(which obviously aren't exactly a tourist attraction).
Let's take a mountain by mountain look at what is actually
According to the Australian Government science organisation
2020, the average annual duration of snow-cover decreases by
five and 40 days and the total area covered in snow shrinks by
percent. By 2050, season durations are reduced by between 15 and
days and the total area covered in snow shrinks by 20 to 85
The average ski season in Canada is projected to reduce by 0-16
percent in the 2020s, 7-32 percent in the 2050s and 11-50 percent
in the 2080s. Without artificial snowmaking - which will be more
expensive due to the increasing lack of real snow - the season
could decline by 37 - 57 percent in the 2050s.
Today, 85 percent of Switzerland's 230 ski resorts are
"snow-reliable". This is likely to drop to 63 percent between 2030
and 2050, and it could possibly drop to 44 percent. The potential
annual cost of climate change in Switzerland is of such magnitude
that it can't be ignored.
Italy, Germany and Austria
The impacts of climate change on winter tourism will probably be
even worse in countries like Germany and Austria, due to the low
altitudes of their ski resorts. In Italy also, half of the winter
sport villages are below 1,300 metres, and some of these are
already facing problems with less snow. If the altitude for snow
reliability rises just 200 metres, many of these resorts will not
Snow levels in the US are likely to rise at the rate of "300
feet for every degree of [global] warming" (a bit less than 100
metres) say scientists from the University of Washington. The
lowest ski resort in the US state of Washington is Snoqualmie (you
will have seen it if you watched David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' on tv)
at 975 metres above sea level. Researchers say that a Snoqualmie
skiing season that is now four months long will probably shrink to
less than 3 months within 20 years, and down to 2 months in 40
years. Last year the season was delayed due to lack of snow.
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