Climate change effects on snow conditions in mainland Australia and adaptation at ski resorts through snowmaking

Kevin J. Hennessy*, P. H. Whetton, K. Walsh, I. N. Smith, J. M. Bathols, M. Hutchinson, J. Sharples

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    145 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    We examined the effects of past and future climate change on natural snow cover in southeastern mainland Australia and assessed the role of snowmaking in adapting to projected changes in snow conditions. Snow-depth data from 4 alpine sites from 1957 to 2002 indicated a weak decline in maximum snow depths at 3 sites and a moderate decline in mid- to late-season snow depths (August to September). Low-impact and high-impact climate change scenarios were prepared for 2020 and 2050 and used as input for a climate-driven snow model. The total area with an average of at least 1 d of snow cover per year was projected to decrease by 10 to 39% by 2020, and by 22 to 85 % by 2050. By 2020, the length of the ski season was projected to have decreased by 10 to 60%, while by 2050 the decrease was 15 to 99%. Based on target snow-depth profiles from May to September nominated by snowmaking managers at various ski resorts, the snow model simulated the amount of snow that is needed to be made each day, taking into account natural snowfall, snow-melt and the pre-existing natural snow depth. By the year 2020, an increase of 11 to 27 % in the number of snow guns would be required for the low impact scenario, and 71 to 200% for the high impact scenario. This corresponds to changes in total snow volume of 5 to 17% for the low impact scenario to 23 to 62% for the high impact scenario. Therefore, with sufficient investment in snow guns, the Australian ski industry may be able to manage the effect of projected climate change on snow cover until at least 2020.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)255-270
    Number of pages16
    JournalClimate Research
    Volume35
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2008

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