Weird Winters

The winter of 2016/17 has been a weird one.  From record-breaking snowpacks in some regions to early resort closures in others, skiers and snowboarders have experienced erratic and unusual weather across the country.

This unusual winter weather is another side effect of climate change.  As the climate warms, precipitation and weather patterns are changing in complicated and unpredictable ways, causing both unseasonably warm spells, and enormous destructive storms in turn. In fact, scientists believe the warming and changing climate is causing more storms of greater intensity each year, even in places where total snowpack is depleting.

 A look back at the past winter alone shows the destabilizing effect that climate change is having on our weather.  Here are just a few highlights:

A Winter of Weird Weather

In early December 2016, Beaver Creek resort was forced to cancel their annual mens world cup event due to unseasonably warm weather. 

By Famartin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In early February, Jackson Hole Resort had to close for several days due to power outages caused by an enormous snow storm - “ a very unusual event” according to a Jackson Hole Spokesperson.  The same storm closed roads across Wyoming for almost a week.

 By Torstein Frogner (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Torstein Frogner (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Also in February, the American Birkebeiner - the largest cross country ski race in North America - was cancelled due to lack of snow and warm temperatures in Wisconsin.  This is only the second time in its 45 year history that the race has been cancelled.

  By Michael (originally posted to Flickr as Emerald Bay) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Michael (originally posted to Flickr as Emerald Bay) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In April, several California resorts announced they would be open into the summer, due to the size of their snowpack. The Lake Tahoe region received over 700 inches of snow this year, 250 over average.

This past weekend, Mount Washington in New Hampshire received a record breaking 30 inches of snow, while most New England ski mountains have been closed for weeks due to spring temperatures.

Finally, over all, it was an extremely warm winter - the second mildest on record in fact. And it’s no fluke; according to the New York Times winters are warming and spring is coming earlier and earlier each year. It’s “moved [up], on average, a full two weeks” in the last 50 years.

 

Climate Action is Essential to the Future of Snow Sports

While we can all appreciate skiing on the Fourth of July, we would prefer healthy stable winters for decades to come.  It’s important to recognize that the erratic and extreme winter weather we are experiencing, even the positive side effects, are visible symptoms of climate change. And without rapid meaningful action to combat climate change, the future of snow sports is very uncertain.

Help Snowriders act on climate by joining Snowriders today!