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CSIRO modelling predicts climate change could shrink Australia’s ski season by 80 days
Australia's ski season could shrink by up to 80 days a year by 2050 under worst-case predictions for climate change.
The CSIRO's climate change modelling predicts, under a low-risk scenario, the average snow season across much of Victoria and NSW’s alpine region will become 20 to 55 days shorter and, under a worst-case scenario, 30 to 80 days shorter – virtually ending the 112-day ski season.
The CSIRO has found significant decline in the past 60 years in the southern slopes and Murray-Basin areas and current predictions are for continued decline in snow depth and duration of snow cover.
While the 2015 report notes snow dumps vary season to season and can be unpredictable, it predicts “snowfall is projected to experience a reduction that increases with time, with the magnitude dependent on the emission scenarios and the altitude.”
The NSW Government is currently considering two key reports on the future of Kosciuszko National Park, including a review of bed limits as a measure of impact and potentially granting a head lease for Perisher to resort owner vail.
CSIRO Climate Science Centre Research Director Kevin Hennessy said snow dumps depended on the rate of climate change, which in turn depended on the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions increased.
Hennessy told the ABC "if we continue to increase greenhouse gas house emissions at the current rate there will be a relatively rapid decline in snow cover and snow duration.
"We are looking at a committed warming of at least one or two degrees over the next decade so an amount of change is unavoidable.
"But beyond about the 2030s, it does depend on how our greenhouse gas house emissions are managed."
Hennessy said higher ski resorts such as Perisher would stay open longer, but would not be immune to reductions in snow falls.
He explained “in future we expect a reduction in the number of snow days, the depth of that snow across that season and the duration of the ski season, so we expect a later start to the ski season and an earlier finish.
"In the Kosciuszko region, which has fairly high elevation, we expect there to be good years and bad years right through this century and not until the end of this century might we see really, really low snow levels."
As a result, Hennessy suggested that snow making would become very difficult by 2030, because conditions would seldom be cold enough.
He added “to make snow you require wet bulb temperature below minus 1 or minus 2 degrees Celsius.
“We anticipate by 2030, the opportunities for snow making might be halved with the exception of some of the high resorts where opportunities might be halved by 2040s.
"The ski industries both in Victoria and New South Wales are factoring in climate change into their projections. The question is how long is that financially viable?"
National Parks and Wildlife Service acting Deputy Chief Executive Robert Quirk said the organisation was focused on making use of the existing infrastructure in the park to draw people year-round.
Quirk told the ABC “we are going to see less snow.
"We have been seeing that for 20 years, and there is a little bit of an interest in how the business runs through the whole calendar year, not just for four months of the year.
"We do want people to get out and understand environmental values, they're not going to get that in their lounge room."
Quirk said the organisation was cognisant of climate change, adding “we talk to the resorts about it all the time and we're watching and waiting to see how it shapes up over the next 50 years.
"The practical reality is we have a lot of businesses based there now which are focused on the snow still falling, and our principal responsibility is to make sure that we manage those sites for the benefit of the park and the community."
Images: Snowmaking at Perisher (top) and snow at Mt Hotham (below).
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