Climate change threatens ski resorts in Europe

Skiing is a sport whose practice can become increasingly difficult if the weather conditions maintain their current trend, since a new study has warned that the increase in temperatures associated with the climate change threatens the viability of 53% of ski resorts in Europe, including those found in Spain. This percentage would rise to 98% if the temperature increase were 4°C.

The research has just been published in the journal Nature Climate Change and reveals that a 2°C rise in temperatures due to climate change It would mean that more than half of the European ski resorts would not have enough snow, and that although using artificial snow on 50% of the surface of a resort would decrease the percentage of resorts at risk by around 25%, this measure would increase both energy consumption and carbon emissions.

In the study, data from 2,234 ski resorts located in the 28 European countries have been analyzed to find out the situation they face if the planet reaches 2ºC of warming. Global temperatures are now about 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial times, and scientists have not been able to determine for sure when the planet will hit 2 degrees. This will largely depend on the Emissions of greenhouse gasesbut, all things being equal, the world could reach this temperature from the middle of the century, and it could reach 2.8ºC by 2100.

Endangered ski tourism

Ernesto Rodriguez Camino, Senior State Meteorologist and member of the Spanish Meteorological Association, has explained in statements to SMC Spain: “This study proposes for the first time a common methodology to analyze the risks that ski tourism can suffer in all the resorts of the European continent from the point of view of snow availability, both naturally and using snow generation technologies. The study shows a great geographical variability in terms of the reduction of available snow depending on the level of global warming that is reached”.

“The Spanish resorts have a high level of risk of reduction of available snow, the greater the higher the level of global warming”

“Snowmaking has little effect on ski areas at lower altitudes and in areas further south, as snowfalls excessively high temperatures prevent effective snow production. However, snowmaking is effective in the north and at higher elevations. Here it is worth mentioning that the Spanish resorts have a high level of risk of reduction of available snow, the greater the higher the level of global warming, although in the case of the Pyrenees resorts the generation of snow shows a certain positive impact” .

“The study also analyzes the demand for water and electricity and the carbon footprint associated with electricity production for the production of snow, although it is recognized that the main part of the carbon footprint is associated with transportation from the place of residence of tourists. Even though a substantial fraction of European ski resorts are projected to still be able to function with global warming of 2°C, a major challenge is the ability of ski tourism destinations to achieve their share of the greenhouse gas emission reductions required by international commitments.

“The additional interest of the study is that it proposes a methodology that can also be applied, using higher resolution information, within a particular ski resort and for each of its slopes. This study is an example of the application of the impacts of climate change to a particular sector throughout Europe with a common methodology and in which the viability of snow sports is considered not only due to the availability of the resource, but also due to its cost in terms of carbon footprint”.


Leave a Reply