The Alps are bare and European holiday makers fan themselves at Parisian sidewalk cafés. You wouldn’t think it’s almost Christmas – there’s not a chance of decent snow.
Popular ski resorts in Switzerland, Austria and France are facing financial ruin as cancellations stream in. But the truth is more than inconvenient – no snow means no skiing, and snow-making machines are useless when the temperature stays above zero all night. It’s all melted by breakfast. One or two extreme resorts on the highest peaks still have glaciers, but they’re crowded way beyond their maximum capacity.
Climate change has been gradual, and people have been more concerned with melting icebergs – now it seems we’ll have to go to Lapland or Siberia to ski. This season will be a wipe-out for Europe, and economic growth will continue to decline, even as the EU struggles under waves of ‘climate refugees’ from overheated tropical regions.
A veteran skier, Prince Charles was heard to remark: “Klosters is so dull and bare this year. What about Antarctica? At least there’s still snow there.”
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
When the ski resorts can’t function, politicians and the jet-set will start to take climate change seriously at last!
As early as December 2006 The UK Independent reported: The winter in southern Europe so far this year has not been a winter at all. It’s been the warmest “for 200 years, since records were started” says Luca Mercalli, Italy’s most famous weatherman, who is president of the Italian Meteorological Society. Hotels across the Alps, in France, Austria and Switzerland, as well as in Italy and the Pyrenees, are heavily underbooked.
Sports-skiing events have been thrown into chaos, with the men’s races in Val d’Isère in the French Alps, scheduled for the coming weekend, cancelled. Mercalli warns that snow cannons, which fire millions of drops of water into freezing air on more and more pistes around the Alps, are not a long-term solution to the problem. Aside from the costs, there is the simple fact that the snow machines do not work unless the temperature is at least 4C below freezing. Mercalli predicts that average winter temperatures in the Val d’Aosta region will rise by about 1.8C by 2050. “Where [the water cannons] have already been installed, it’s right to keep using them as long as possible,” he writes. “Where they have not yet been installed, however, it is inadvisable to install them at this point in history.”
In the longer term, less snow in the mountains could have a crippling effect on the alpine economy. According to a story in the February 2006 issue of National Geographic, of the 600 ski resorts that currently operate in the Alps, half could be closed by 2050 due to changes in the permanent snow line brought on by global warming.
Our advice? If you’re looking for lots of snow, there’s always Antarctica…