The Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO have just released their updated ”State of the Climate’ report. This is produced every two years and provides an update on what is happening with the latest climate science. As in previous report’s, the impacts of climate change on the Australian landscape are clear. There are also some specific details for people concerned about mountain environments.Continue reading “‘State of the Climate 2020’ – what does it mean for mountain environments?”
I don’t know about you, but I’m a winter person. I daydream about snow through summer, sneak off to the mountains in autumn to get that sense of oncoming winter, and once the snow arrives, I’m there. My New Year’s Eve is the end of the ski season. Having New Years in the middle of endless summer heat never made sense to me, but the end of the season, when thousands start to head off the mountains and quiet returns, really marks the end of the year for me.
Like other snow addicts I anxiously check the season outlook. Those big falls in May and early June gave me hope for a good season in 2020, in spite of the fact that we just had two great winters and three in a row was going to be pushing our luck.
Then came lockdown 1 and 2, the closure of the VIC resorts, and a pretty ‘uninspiring’ winter.Continue reading “Winter of The Little Things”
Well known Tasmanian landscape photographer Grant Dixon is launching a new book. Grant has been exploring the Tasmanian wilderness for some 40 years and undertaking trips to the mountains in winter for much of that time, capturing images featuring both grand vistas and intimate details of the winter landscape.
Grant says ‘I’m publishing a high quality, hard cover photographic book in the Tasmanian tradition of fine art productions and of using photography to activate awareness of the environment. The book features 89 images, captured over several decades, of the Tasmanian mountain landscape in winter’.
In his foreword, writer and photographer David Neilson states, “this exceptional collection of alpine images clearly reveals Grant’s outstanding artistic vision. ….. The human spirit desperately needs wilderness and Grant’s photos speak to us passionately of that need.“
Grant has organised a pre order crowd fund to print the book. You can buy a copy of the book, please check here for details, and collect in Hobart, or have it posted to you. There are some great images and calendar on offer for people who are able to contribute more.Continue reading “WINTER LIGHT: the Tasmanian mountains in winter”
Yes, many of us are getting a bit stir crazy after weeks at home.
And every snow addict in the country is frothing to get up to the mountains after that incredible dump of powder.
We’re all seeing those videos and pics of our mates getting first tracks.
It’s hard to stay the course and stay at home.
But our actions now will have a real impact on government decisions about whether to allow resorts to open this winter.
This current burst of cold has certainly made the conversation about ski season more real. Many of us are expecting an announcement – at least in Victoria – by mid May (the 11th is the date that the Victorian government will announce what next for the society wide lock down). The NSW police commissioner has said the state’s restrictions on outdoor movements and public gatherings would remain in force for at least 90 days, but that he was hopeful of being able to relax them beyond that date: 29 June.
For business operators, international instructors, local staff, and all snow lovers the wait is agonising.
I recently posted a poll on twitter, asking what people thought would happen this winter: a full ski season. Late start. Or no season at all – with or without the option of backcountry skiing. It was a small group that responded, but around 2 thirds felt there would be no season.
Act on Climate Victoria, the climate change campaign at Friends of the Earth Victoria, has launched an interactive map which shows details of climate change impacts on local communities, businesses and landscapes across the state.
It notes that snow cover has declined across the Alps since the 1950s. You can submit your observations of climate change impacts for inclusion in the map.
With significant recent avalanche activity, a crusty layer in many places, and a consolidating snow pack it is still wise to display caution in the backcountry.
Mountain Sports Collective notes that in north east Victoria, there is a ‘moderate wind slab hazard on aspects lee to the west. Hazard increasing with continued windloading over the next 48hrs’.
And on the Main Range in NSW, MSC says: ‘Ongoing persistent weak layer in the snowpack prevails across the range above 1800m with a moderate hazard rating associated. Whilst deep and increasingly unlikely to trigger the consequence is staggering by local standards.’
Climate change is already affecting the landscape of Tasmania through more intense fire seasons. This threatens species like the Pencil Pine. In the last few decades, there has been an increase in fires caused by dry lightning strikes, and this has been impacting on vegetation types that are not fire adapted.
A recent review of how much climate change has already impacted on Tasmania highlights how broad these effects are on the landscape.
Erin Cooper, writing for the ABC, identified the following impacts that are being felt in mountain areas.
Climate change poses an existential threat to the mountains and winter environment that we love and rely on. In Australia, winter snow is already in decline, and has been since 1957.
And climate scientists keep warning us that we are running out of time to cut greenhouse emissions and head off future climate impacts. With the Coalition being re-elected, Australia now has no leadership on climate change (and our carbon emissions continue to soar), so we need everyone to put their shoulder to the wheel.
With the failure of the federal government to act, there is a huge need for the states to continue their work on energy policy. In the ACT, the Government has legislated a target of sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2020. States around the world, from California to Colorado to New York are also showing leadership and setting deep emission reduction targets and high renewable energy targets.
And now we have a fantastic opportunity to see Victoria take the step towards transforming its energy system and economy. We have just four weeks to send in submissions to the Victorian government on the state’s first interim Emissions Reduction Targets. The state government must announce targets for 2025 and 2030 by March next year. Targets which are based on climate science, rather than what is deemed ‘politically expedient’, will drive down emissions and start the transition from coal to renewables.
Time for a road trip!
The snow currently hitting the Alps and Tasmania means an early skiing/ riding season at some resorts.
As a result of spectacular snow falls (Hotham is already reporting 65 cm!), a number of resorts are opening early, including:
Perisher, from Friday May 31 (although Perisher Skitube and Shuttle Service between Perisher and Smiggin Holes will not run until June Long Weekend).
Mt Buller (lifts starting June 2, with their new chairlift opening as well).
Mt Buller and Mt Stirling will both officially open on 1 June, offering half price resort entry from Saturday until the Queen’s Birthday Weekend.
Most others are opening over the traditional Queens birthday weekend (June 8 – 10).
And, of course, there is a good cover in the backcountry across higher mountain areas – obviously take care out there as the base will not have consolidated as yet.
Last weekend at Mt Hotham I was chatting with a friend about the end of the season. She said she was starting to grieve for the end of another year. I was feeling exactly the same. I feel most alive in the alpine, especially the alpine when it’s snow covered, and for me, the spring melt marks the end of the year.
With many areas now pushing beyond 200 cm of snowpack (and Mt Buller calling it the best snow since 2004), the rest of August and early September is looking spectacular. Although I’m hearing a few nay sayers suggesting that we have seen the best of winter 2018, the famed Grasshopper is a little more upbeat: ‘We are now midway through the southern hemisphere season with the best part still to come.‘
However, The Grasshopper does also suggest that it will taper off after the next band of fronts: ‘Both climate drivers and models aren’t working in our favour for epic snowfalls during the second half of the season. However, snowfalls over the next week or two will provide ample fresh powder’.
But there is little doubt that winter 2018 has been amazing, especially on top of 2017 – which had been billed as ‘the best since 2000’.
Hopefully we will still be wandering around in the backcountry, finding turns, long after the resorts have closed.
In the meantime, here’s some backcountry style events you may want to get along to.