The end of snow?

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Lisa Stelzner

Did you know that Sochi wasn’t able to hold test skiing events in February 2013 because the ski trails were brown and bare in certain areas?  (Sochi stored last winter’s snow under insulated blankets until this year just to make sure there would be enough snow for the Olympics.) Or that only about half of all the cities that have hosted the winter Olympics might still have enough snow to host again in 36 years?  More than half of the U.S. Northeast’s ski resorts might have to permanently close in 30 years because they won’t have enough snow.

“I was floored by how much snow had already disappeared from the planet, not to mention how much was predicted to melt in my lifetime. The ski season in parts of British Columbia is four to five weeks shorter than it was 50 years ago, and in eastern Canada, the season is predicted to drop to less than two months by midcentury. At Lake Tahoe, spring now arrives two and a half weeks earlier, and some computer models predict that the Pacific Northwest will receive 40 to 70 percent less snow by 2050. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise — they grew 41 percent between 1990 and 2008 — then snowfall, winter and skiing will no longer exist as we know them by the end of the century.”

Making artificial snow for ski slopes is very expensive, and uses a huge amount of water (the Alps use more water to make snow than the city of Vienna uses all winter). It does not look like there is an easy solution, and the loss of snow in many areas is yet another effect of climate change.

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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.