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Impacts Of Climate Change On Australia Alps’ Ski Industry

1141 words - 5 pages

The changing nature of snow cover as a result of alpine climate change is a modern phenomenon that climate scientists are beginning to understand. Declining snow depth and duration have serious implications for Australia’s ski industry, in particular the longevity of the industry. This essay discusses the impacts of alpine climate change on snow cover, adaption strategies to sustain the industry’s economy as well as the unsustainable nature of snowmaking as a long term solution. Limitations on water and energy resource make snowmaking problematic as a substitute for natural snow. The essay highlights the unsustainability of snowmaking as a short-term solution, and raises concerns of the ...view middle of the document...

Increased temperature and decreased precipitation results in lower seasonal snow cover. Furthermore, extensive research by Galloway (1988), Ohmura (2006) and Pickering (2010) showed the effects of increased greenhouse gas production increasing rates of snow melt, as more ultraviolet energy from solar radiation is trapped in the atmosphere. Hence, more radiation results in higher melting rates of fresh snow. Fresh snow is made of fine snow grains that act as a barrier to prevent old snow, made of coarse snow grains, from melting. Consequently, the albedo of snow decreases with increased area covered by old snow.

The melting of old snow significantly impacts snow cover as there is no permafrost in the Australian Alps. Additionally, the decreased reflectivity results in increased temperatures in snow-cover areas. Ohmaru (2006) supports Pickering’s (2010) theory of the link between snow albedo and atmospheric temperatures, with lower albedo contributing to an increased atmospheric temperature over snow-cover areas. Hence, it can be concluded from the above analysis that the decline in fresh snow results in old snow coming to surface, causing a faster rate of run off due to lower reflectivity. The cascading effect of increased temperatures as a result of alpine climate change will continue to intensify over time. Consequently, the action that the ski industry take to adapt to climate change will determine the industry’s future status.

Challenges and adaptions of the ski industry
To address the challenges of declining snow cover, Australia’s alpine ski industry can adopt two main adaption strategies (Figure 4). First, to increase production of artificial snow through snowmaking. Alternatively, reverting to summer tourism as a means to balance out the decline in winter tourism. Yet, summer tourism is largely unexplored by the ski industry and remains a secondary option to snowmaking (Green and Pickering 2009). Consequently, snowmaking appeals to the industry as it is more directly intervenes in the effects of climate change.

To minimise the effect of declining snow cover on business, the ski industry employ snowmaking to prolong the snow season. Snowmaking relies on a consistent supply of water, power and appropriate climatic conditions (Tonkovic and Jeffcoat, 2002, p. 302) to manufacture artificial snow. However, snowmaking is an unsustainable adaption strategy due to water and energy limitations. Furthermore, due to the unique properties of snow, fine grained artificial snow only form under “low humidity and temperature” (Tonkovic and Jeffcoat 2002, p. 299). Currently, artificial snow is cannot substitute natural snow as it contributes only 10% of the total snow depth (Figure 5)....

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