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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Protect Our Winters

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, September 25, 2015/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment, climate change

If you live anywhere near mountains, you should appreciate the importance of snow fall. Snowy mountains are aesthetically beautiful, they provide water supplies to cities and agriculture, and offer major sports opportunities for locals and tourists alike. Economies are directly linked to this major natural resource. For states in the Western USA, climate change is already impacting this critical environmental resource by producing less snow  and more rain instead.

Cal-Adapt , an organization that presents climate change research in California, has produced an interactive big-data map that calculates the snowpack changes to the Sierra Nevada mountains from 1950-2090 using a visual slider-map. Likewise, Ecowest  visualizes similar snow-water relationships for the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, and California from 1971-2099. The "new normal" is not good news for the West.

           State-wide Snowpack and Water Equivalents, 1971-2099 (credit: EcoWest)

The basic picture of decreasing snowpack and impacted water supplies with increasing demand is not a pretty one and the national advocacy organization, Protect Our Winters  is working do something about this. POW was organized in 2007 by winter sports professionals who were witnessing climate change impacts first-hand on the mountains they enjoyed. On ski hills
once covered in snow, they now saw barren slopes and closed lodges for lack of snow. A gap was recognized between the winter sports community and actions need to address this critical problem. According to the group,

"snow-based recreation in the United States contributes nearly $67 billion to the US economy annually and supports over 900,000 jobs. And if you look at the industry worldwide, it is serious business. Protect Our Winters is the environmental center point of this global winter sports community, united towards a common goal of reducing climate change’s effects on our sports and local economies."

The organization will make the concerns well known at the upcoming climate change meetings in Paris .

The western state of Utah has a particularly well-deserved reputation for its 'world class' skiing and snowboarding landscapes. Mountain resorts like  Alta , Snowbird , Deer Valley , and  Sundance  offer amazing powder conditions unlike most other states due to the dry desert air and steep mountains that capture storms that typically dump volumes of deep, dry snow. The Utah industry association, Ski Utah , has now  partnered  with Protect Our Winters to show solidarity from its industry members. Their concerns about climate change were recognized recently by the  Salt Lake Tribune  that weighed in on the winter sports situation. The State's governor was also  asked  to add his voice to the diverse calls of climate change concerns.

Protect Our Winters, Ski Utah, and many others have recognized the current and growing impacts of a changing climate and the "new normal" is having already. Their actions are important but they need all the help they can muster. Join the effort.



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