Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Alpine Snow May Shrink 70% by 2100

  • Alpine mountains may lose as much as 70% of snow cover
  • Researchers see a third less snow even if global warming slows

If you’re skiing at Europe’s resorts this month, enjoy it while it lasts.

As much as 70 percent of Alpine snow could disappear by the end of the century as global warming increasingly cuts in on the annual ski season. That’s the conclusion of Swiss researchers in a paper relying on three-dimensional modeling to understand how much snow could be saved if countries deliver on the Paris agreement to tackle climate change.

The Alps would still lose about 30 percent of snow cover by 2100 even if countries limit temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius, according to the research in The Crysosphere, a journal published Thursday by the European Geosciences Union. That would require emissions to be cut in half by the middle of this century.

Losses may reach 70 percent if no action is taken to tackle the issue, and snow would virtually vanish at about a quarter of the Alps ski resorts that are below 1,200 meters (3,940 feet), according to a press release accompanying the scientific paper.

“The Alpine snow cover will recede anyway, but our future emissions control by how much,” said Christoph Marty, lead-author, from WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, which is based in Davos.

Worst-Case Scenario Detailed

Fickle weather patterns, such as the persistent high pressure responsible for dry conditions over the Alps in December, may be just one sign of things to come as the effects of climate change take hold. That month produced the least snow in Switzerland since record-keeping began more than 100 years ago. Holiday operators let vacationers switch to slopes with snow-cover.

“Since many Alpine villages are heavily dependent on winter tourism, the economy and society of regions with such tourism centers will suffer,” said Sebastian Schlogl, also from SLF.

On the plus side, less snow would reduce road accidents in the area as well as airport closures, according to the researchers.

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