The Effect of Climate Change on Ski Industry in the Alps

Published: 2019-12-10 08:30:00
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There is an increasing agreement among scientists and researchers that climate will continue to change in the near future. The cryosphere of the earth is one of the areas likely to be most affected by climate change due to global warming in the 22nd century (Walter, 3). This is because of the anticipated changes in two main components of the climate, which determine the characteristics, as well as the level of cryospheres precipitation, temperature and system components. In reference to the most recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), the projected increase in temperature from 1990 to 2100 ranges from 1.4o to 5.8o (Walter,3). This change in temperature is more than the change during the 20th century and the available data shows the increase exceeds the change resulting from thermohaline circulation that is expected to reduce as well as weaken the heat transported in Europe and Northern latitudes through the North Atlantic Drift.

From the mid 21st century simulations show that the amount of precipitation and water in the world will increase . For instance, in the Antarctica and northern high latitudes there are expectations that there will be an increase in winter precipitation. In addition, there is likelihood of glacier snow cover to retreat further in the next century because the runoff from ice sheets and ice glaciers is more than the increase in winter as well as summer precipitation (Vanham and Rauch, 101).

Decline in snow cover length and glacier mass have significant social economic effects on regional, local and national level. Apart from tourism a tremendous ecological effect potential, on global scale it is one of the most important sectors. In 2000 tourism accounted for approximately $478 billion, as a result, it is among the top five industries in 68% of the countries in the world (Walter,4). In the next five years, there are expectations that the tourism sector will grow by approximately 4% with the Alpine share expected to have a growth of 10%, that is, attracting around 120 million visitors every year.

Significant economic output of skiing and other tourism activities form an incentive to establish possibilities of searching for other alternative locations to be used for skiing tourism on broader perspective.

Sporting activities are described as incorporated in recreation and tourism because sport is the main aim of having a holiday, for instance, skiing. Generally, recreation is associated with all activities of recreation, which have no monetary value; therefore, they are not factored in examination of social economic effects. However, concerning the effects on the environment, no differences are established between skiing being part of leisure time or holiday given that the effects of environmental changes on skiing are considered in the same manner (Ghaderi, Khoshkam and Henderson, 98). This paper has an aim of showing the effects of climate change of skiing and specifically in the Alps Mountains. In addition, it examines the effects of global warming on snow and glacier cover. The paper also evaluates the socio-economic effects of global warming on communities living in the Alpine regions, focusing on skiing activities and demonstrates the potential responses and adaptations of ski industry.

Threats of Environmental Changes on Tourism

Climate change alters the landscape, for example, there may be a decrease in snow cover, establishment of new ecosystems with shift or loss of diversity that may change attraction of tourists in an area. In addition, air and water pollution distorts the social amenities in a specific area and part of these effects are associated with tourism (Ghaderi, Khoshkam and Henderson, 99).

Positive effects of Tourism

Tourism and associated activities directly contribute to various efforts made by governmental and non-governmental organizations in regards to environmental conservation. The entrance fees and other sources of funds may be allocated to manage the sensitive areas in the environment. In addition, good management of tourist facilities may be beneficial to the natural environment as well as the economic value of a specific area. Given that tourism increases the attachment of people to nature, as a result, it increases more awareness in reference to the environmental problems.

Complex Nature of Ecosystem

Traditionally, mountain environments are known to be simple ecosystems given their complexity, that is, the species supported by mountains decrease with height. Even if they are spatial complex, there are suggestions that mountain ecosystems are generally complicated (Sakai, Nakawo and Fujita, 12). Moreover, the spatial limits of ecosystem communities can be expressed on the mosaic patch scale focusing on species instead of human defined scales. Researchers argue that mountain ecosystem is vulnerable because of microclimate changes as well as changes in the entire climatic conditions.

Response of Glacier Ice Sheets to Climatic Changes

The reaction of glacier ice sheets to change of climate involves complex processes. For instance, various changes in atmospheric conditions like air temperature, solar radiation, precipitation, cloudiness and wind influence the energy and mass balance at the surface of glacier sheet (Denning, 12). Air temperature has predominant role in influencing this balance because it is related to turbulent heat change as well as radiation balance. In addition, it determines if the fall of precipitation is in terms of rain or snow. Over long period of time, changes in mass and energy balance leads to a change in thickness and volume of glaciers that affects the ice flow via basal sliding and internal deformation.

The dynamic response results to changes in the glacier length with retreat or advance of glacier tongues. Simply, the glacier mass balance (vertical thickness) is a direct indicator of atmospheric condition every year having no delay while the retreat or advance of glacier tongues is an indirect filtered and delayed indicator of climate change (Sakai, Nakawo and Fujita, 12). The retreatment or advancement of glacier is a strong and an easily observed indicator of climate change. In case the time interval in scientific analysis is more than the time taken by a glacier in adjusting to climatic change, there are various complications engaged with dynamic reaction disappear.

Over many decades, there can be comparison of mass change and the cumulative length of glaciers. However, there are some problems facing these measurements with intensively debris covered areas having strongly limited and reduced melting glaciers which end in deep water bodies leading to enhanced calving and melting as well as glaciers which undergo rapid advance surges and periodic mechanical instability after extended time of recovery and stagnation (Abdalati, 97). These are among the perfect signals of climate change globally.

Small climatic changes like change of temperature by approximately 0.1 degrees per decade after a long period of time can result into pronounced change of glacier length of several kilometers or hundreds of meters. During the peak of last ice age, approximately 21000 years ago, 30% of the land in the world was covered by glaciers. Glacier fluctuations have been reconstructed to that period by applying various scientific techniques. Comprehending the variation of glaciers in historic time has become central to examining the causes as well as possibility of glacier change in future. Notable reconstructions of ice glaciers in Alaska, Petagonia, Canadian Rockies, Alps, Antarctica, Arctic and Tibet proves that fluctuations in regards to the state of glaciers is significantly consistent with environmental and climatic change reconstructions offered by indicators like tree-line shifts, ice-cores, lake sediments and pollen records.

Global warming experienced during the transition to early Holocene from Late Glacial period resulted to severe glacier retreat with alternating periods of glacier re-advances. Approximately 11000 years ago pronounced global warming reduced the ice glaciers in many mountain areas to a size that can be compared with the situation at the late 20th century in Western North America and Northern Europe facilitated by the remains of great ice sheets. However, there was delay in this process until 5000 years. Numerous Holocene re-advances, specifically in North Pacific, Alps and North Atlantic, group around the events experienced around 8000 years and were facilitated by subsequent cooling and ocean thermohaline circulation from Lake Agassiz outbursts.

Changes in the Alpine Snow

Majority of national weather services operating with the European Alps have provided meteorological data inclusive of snow parameters over the past decades. For instance, MeteoSwiss archive on climate comprises of data spanning in the 20th century for approximately 100 locations. Snow data is taken on daily basis; therefore, seasonal statistics in regards to the accumulation of snow in reference to various parameters like precipitation, temperature and pressure are compiled with ease ("Glaciers And Climate Change | National Snow And Ice Data Center", 1). In addition, the snow data is compared to standard variables of pressure and temperature in order to improve its quality. Given that precipitation and temperature are the main determinants of snow, the behavior of these parameters have been examined from 1930-2010 (Beniston, 349).

The locations through which precipitation and temperature data is analyzed have not gone through significant changes in the period of time when the data was collected to avoid biasness of trend estimates. Regardless of the location of the weather stations, the pressure, temperature and precipitation trends are amazingly in phase despite the geographic and altitude differences (Beniston, 350). The trends of the mean temperature from 1931 to 2010 range between 0.14 degrees Celsius to 0.4 degrees per decade in Zurich and Jungfrauth areas with no significant difference between the temperature trends at medium/low in comparison to areas which are at high elevations (Oerlemans and Fortuin, 115). Entirely the temperature change in the Alpine region have showed significant changes in comparison to global increase in the average temperature. There has been an observation of this feature in other mid-latitude mountain areas. Reduction of snow duration and cover, which facilitates to positive feedback impacts between the atmosphere and the earths surface, may provide an explanation of the observations recorded.

By applying the non-parametric Man-n-Kendal statistical test to examine if these trends are statistically significant, prove that the trends in temperature changes are significant at 99% level of confidence (Abdalati , 98). From 1931 to 2010, the department noted that there was a decline in precipitation by 15-25% in regards to the winter time precipitation for most of the regions within the Alps with exception high elevated regions of Saentis which has demonstrated an increasing trend for the past 80 years (Oerlemans and Fortuin , 117). In addition, after applying a 5-year filter in order to remove inter-annual variability as well as the likelihood of long-term trends, it was clear that as precipitation declined the snow cover depth decreased by approximately 10% in some parts and an extreme of 50% in other areas such as Zurich (Milman, 2).

Moreover, the decreased depth was associated with increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The duration of snow cover is also evident under which there is general shortening of snow season in all the Alpine regions. In Engadine, the snow season decreased by 15% from 1990 to 2000, representing low elevated region, and an extreme of 50% in high elevated regions such as Zurich. In other Alpine...


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