Having recently come back from a beautiful weekend of cross-country skiing, snow is on my mind or, more accurately, the lack of it. Projected future snowfall patterns and coverage are assuredly still full of unanswered questions and uncertainties in terms of exactly how and where snowfall patterns might change under various climate change scenarios. However, it seems pretty clear that most climate change models predict the overall trend is towards less snow coverage in the 21st century in many places, and that sucks for a lot of reasons.
Snow plays a critical role in provisioning of more ecosystem services than you can imagine. Here’s just a few:
- regulating hydrologic cycles: fish, wildlife and vegetation along rivers whose supply is controlled by snowmelt have life histories that are in many cases well-matched to the hydrologic cycle of high runoff during snowmelt, followed by a gradually declining hydrograph.
- Water supply: lots and lots of people depend on snow for drinking water supplies: in the US, think the Colorado front range, whose reservoirs are largely supplied by runoff from snowmelt, or the Puget Sound region’s water supply from the Cascades. In the Himalayas, glaciers contribute meltwaters to enormous river systems that provide drinking water and irrigation to more than a billion people in Asia.
- Recreation and tourism: the $12 billion US ski and snowmobile winter sports industry is huge. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates over 200,000 jobs are supported by this industry. And of course, there are all of us-millions of us- who love to play in the snow that are supported by this industry too.
So snow is important, for a whole lot of reasons. And loss of snow translates to impacts to all of these incredibly important things that snow provides. If we just narrow our focus to recreational impacts, its bad enough to consider what these changes might forecast for the US skiing economy, but imagine what this might do to a country that is largely defined by its snow, like Switzerland, where one study looking at climate change predictions estimated that nearly half of Switzerland’s resorts lie in areas where they may not reliably receive enough snow to support tourism under climate change scenarios?!
So I am Pro Snow– and that’s not my creative rhyming, that’s an effort of the Climate Reality (CR) Project, who are teaming up with skiing professionals and outdoor enthusiasts and filmographers to spread the word about the importance of protecting our snowy world from climate change. The website above invites you to join CR’s mailing list to get updates on their efforts and participate in actions, and watch a very cool trailer from Warren Miller Entertainment, who has partnered with CR to produce a film about the effects of climate change. For the sake of all of us who love the snow and everything that depends upon it, Go Pro Snow.