Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

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Charley
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Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by Charley » January 17th, 2015, 11:12 am

Some friends of mine introduced me to Nordic skiing when I moved here eight years ago, and I loved it immediately. Being able to go on ski trips up in the mountains makes it possible for me to withstand the dreary rain and cold temperatures of our winters. Skiing provides a seasonal alternative to hiking that raises my heart rate and allows me to explore the mountains I love.

But all this is changing, even over the short amount of time I've lived here. We now seem to have no guarantee of skiable snow in the mountains for much of the ski season. As evidence, here are photos of US 26 at Govy from today:
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I can see why people have taken to snow-shoeing. When there is so little snow, and its condition so quickly deteriorated, the ease of use and reliable footing of shoes makes travel easier. There is little benefit from the increased speed or flotation of skis when there is only six inches of rain crust on frozen ground.

Even worse, for budding skiers, there are few days when the snow isn't iced up, rained on, snow-shoed over. It can be difficult to learn in those conditions, because braking and turning are more difficult and unpredictable. Breaking over the frustration barrier can be hard for beginners on skis even when conditions are great. Imagine the challenge of doing so when those conditions only happen a few times a year.

For myself, I've taken up the downhill side of the sport. At the higher elevations of our local resorts, it's still possible to find snow. Mind you, it's not always pretty. Here are photos of sodden skiers enjoying a good day of rain skiing:
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At least there's some snow, right?

Of course, the changing climate's impact to our region's way of life goes far beyond my favorite form of imported northern European winter recreation. With less snow and more rain, we can no longer rely on snow-melt for summer rivers, or lingering snow and moisture for protection from forest fires.

Skiers may be more aware and worried about climate change, because it affects them personally, but the cost to our society as a whole is far greater. This reality is so obvious, and the solutions so equally obvious, that I feel endless frustration with our government's response. Half of our politicians don't even acknowledge that the climate is changing, much less that we have caused the change and should seek to stop it. In the future, we will look back on this period of time and rue our inaction.

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Koda
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by Koda » January 17th, 2015, 11:35 am

Charley wrote:But all this is changing, even over the short amount of time I've lived here.
are you shur this isn’t the norm? Coincidently, their is a report on the ski mountaineering forum on this topic where a person did a detailed study of the disappearance of PNW low elevation snow-pack. You should read the results, from what I gather the recent decline in low elevation snow-pack isn’t a trend but normal over a greater length of time.

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_sn ... ic=33400.0

lots of information in the report relative to what your saying... here is a teaser:
Image
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Eric Peterson
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by Eric Peterson » January 17th, 2015, 11:47 am

My 11 year olds are up at Meadows as I type this learning how to snow board, was hoping the snow level would have been lower today :(

They had a great first weekend last Saturday though!

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Charley
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by Charley » January 17th, 2015, 12:30 pm

@Koda-
That's really fascinating. I might just be standing corrected.

I'd like to see data from Oregon state, though before I throw in the towel. Perhaps it would correlate more closely with California?

One more question: I'd really like to see a history of opening days and open days per year for the local resorts. I have a hard time imagining that SkiBowl would ever have been built if the current snow conditions were in force from the beginning. I mean, it seems like they won't be able to survive if they can't open this much of the year.

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Koda
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by Koda » January 17th, 2015, 12:52 pm

Charley wrote:One more question: I'd really like to see a history of opening days and open days per year for the local resorts. I have a hard time imagining that SkiBowl would ever have been built if the current snow conditions were in force from the beginning. I mean, it seems like they won't be able to survive if they can't open this much of the year.
Skibowls history goes back as far as 1928 and mostly "evolved" into the ski resort we know today. I doubt back then any knowledge of snowpack history was any part of the plan other than "it snows each year", as well as any idea that downhill (alpine) recreational skiing would dominate later on.

I personally still have questions to why it seems to me (in my memory) that it doesn’t really start building up a low elevation snowpack until mid/late January where at we stay below average until late winter when we get slammed by winter storms that bring the snowpack back up to normal or sometimes exceeding... but who knows maybe that too is normal historically?
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Lumpy
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by Lumpy » January 17th, 2015, 12:56 pm

If all you climate worriers would just buy gigantic vehciles and tow 4-wheeleres up into the moutnains, we could melt all that damned snow and we would all have fossil-fuel powered fun Fun FUN!!!

(Very tongue in cheek there, really! I swear!)

I've been shopping for heavy duty pick-up trucks for a new business I'm trying to get going, and became very interested in a diesel engine when I found that I could have more power for towing but good fuel economy when unloaded, and an exhaust brake for added towing safety.

I bought a year old used diesel Dodge with impressive figures, but to me the most impressive is that it gets better MPG than the explorer I've had since 1996. That means lower emissions, and the emissions systems on the new pick-up almost completely eliminate NOx and particulate pollution from the exhaust. I am still in honeymoon mode with it, but it seems a pretty good amount of effort was done by Cummins to reduce emissions in their ISB engine. I won't be making any modifications to it, so it should run nice and (relatively) clean. It's certainly cleaner than the old explorer was.
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retired jerry
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by retired jerry » January 17th, 2015, 1:50 pm

If it's warmer, then they'll be more evaporation from ocean, then more precipitation as it goes over the mountains, if you're high enough elevation there'll be more snow

Very difficult to figure out what will be the effect of increased CO2 levels

One thing is a mid elevations, like maybe 5000 feet, if it's a couple degree F warmer, a lot of precip will be rain instead of snow, so annual snowfall will be much less. Heard something about this on NPR

Another thing is, we have been increasing CO2 emmisions in the last few decades, and the effect is cumulative, so any change is in the last couple decades, and the next 100 years will have a much bigger effect

There's the number of nights that stay in the 60s plot:
60degreenights.png
This was from KPTV in the fall and didn't include all of 2014. There were actually 50 nights which is a new record - off the plot.

This shows the effect of global warming pretty good

This is like the risk of tobacco - there was a time when a lot of people were denying it, questioning the science,... Now, no one claims tobacco isn't dangerous

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Bosterson
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by Bosterson » January 17th, 2015, 2:11 pm

Koda wrote:from what I gather the recent decline in low elevation snow-pack isn’t a trend but normal over a greater length of time.

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_sn ... ic=33400.0

Image
That was interesting to read. I would like to see his analysis be subjected to peer review by someone who's an actual climatologist (he has a Ph.D in physics and is an armchair climatologist).

As a casual reader, I have questions about his use of statistics: it's interesting what he says about the influence of longer term weather patterns, but it appears that he is comparing the running averages (blue, green, and teal lines) with a cumulative average (red line), which is not the same as a line of best fit. So on longer timescales - ie, with more and more data being averaged - it's no surprise that the red line smooths out the closer it gets to the present, and doesn't vary much from its current value (the thin black horizontal line): the more entrenched your average is, the harder it is for a single value or small set of values to change it. (This is why demography uses median values - that shows how the range of values changes over time.)

If we accept the current value (black line) as being indicative of the statistically "normal" amount over the prior 85 years, and if we are interested in reductions in low elevation snowpack that would be due to global warming (which would be potentially be apparent in data since approximately the 70s, and especially during the last decade or so - the hottest on record), then the "normal" value needs to be compared to useful measurements of recent snowpack: this means comparing the black line to the running averages.

The blue line (5 yr avg) is really too short a timespan to be of much use - each individual winter affects the variability too much. So maybe we can ignore the jitters in the blue line and just note that for at least the first 3 graphs, low elevation snowpack has mostly been above "normal" in recent years. (It is actually lower than "normal" in the latter 2 graphs.)

The green line (10 yr avg) is a bit more useful - this should show if snowpack has been affected by the previous hot decade. At best, the green line is around "normal," but in most graphs it is below, with a slight uptick in current years as the above average past 5 years affect the 10 year average value.

In all graphs the teal line (30 yr avg) is below "normal," though trending back up towards it in recent years in the latter 2 graphs.

What do we make of this? The farther back you go from the present, the less likely any of the colored lines is to show effects of global warming. So really only paying attention to the most recent decade or so, when the green and teal lines are both generally lower than the 85 year average value, the question is whether this is evidence of global warming, or whether these results are to be expected from the long term weather patters he references, or whether these are statistical artifacts from the way he analyzed the data. I'm not a statistician nor a climatologist, so again, I'd like to see a peer review of this before I start making real inferences from some graphs an (obviously smart) layperson posted on a skiing forum. ;)

I think w/r/t rain vs snow in Gov't Camp, he makes the important point that it's just too random at elevations that low - kind of like snowfall in Portland itself.
At elevations below about 1500-2000 ft in the Washington Cascades, there is simply too much year-to-year variability in snowfall and snowpack to make any sense of the data.
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viking
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by viking » January 17th, 2015, 3:20 pm

As a kid, mid/ late '60s I remember many a January/February Saturday spent skiing in the rain at Ski Bowl. So winter Govy rain is not abnormal in my book. The speed of the retreat of the glaciers on Mt. Hood is the factor that scares me worse. I've late summer been on the White River glacier almost every year for the last 20 or so looking for places to play. We used to have several 60+ ft deep closed bottom crevasse to play in, now there is one 20' or less with a rock bottom. My observations tell me that below the firn line the glacier has been losing around 5' of thickness yearly. The Eliot is even worse, a whole ice fall has disappeared and the old middle, now lower ice fall is just a shadow of what it once was. Reid smaller than it once was, Coe, Ladd and Newton similar. Sandy, when the cave collapses will quickly be just a rock slope. Just my observations.

R11
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Re: Climate Change is destroying XC skiing

Post by R11 » January 17th, 2015, 4:24 pm

Saw this NASA/NOAA report mentioned on the news this morning:

http://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/january/ ... rn-record/
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ilg75uJZZU



ron

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