Climate Change and Snow Cover in the European Alps
Pp. 30-44 (15)
Climatic changes are already having a significant impact on snow cover in
the European Alps. Several studies from Switzerland, France, Austria, Italy and
Germany have noted a general decrease in snow depth and snow cover duration since
the end of the 1980s throughout the European Alps. Investigations of snow cover and
climate change have revealed that the reduction in snow reliability observed in low and
medium altitude ski resorts is mainly caused by warmer winter temperatures.
Precipitation becomes the determining factor for a snowy winter only above 2000 m asl.
Projected changes in temperature and precipitation are expected to cause further
significant decline in the snowreliability of Alpine ski areas. The impacts of these
changes, however, are not uniform. They depend on altitude, region and local factors.
For example, the impact of climate change is stronger at low altitudes, in inner-alpine
dry valleys and on southern slopes, which leads to winners and losers among the
different ski areas. The winter tourism industry has already begun to respond to the
implications of these observed changes. A range of technological and behavioural
measures have been put into practice to offset the adverse impacts. However, adaptation
measures, such as the widespread use of snow-making, put new pressures on the
ecology of the mountain environment.
Adaptation measures, precipitation change, snow depth, snow
reliability, temperature change, winter tourism.
WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Unit Snow and Permafrost, Flüelastr. 11, 7260 Davos Dorf, Switzerland