The Snow will all have gone from Australia by 2050 – Really?

Guest post by Mike Jonas

Snow levels are important to the people of Australia’s Snowy Mountains because the ski industry provides a large proportion of the region’s income. There has been a series of scare stories from the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) newspaper, and Australia’s National broadcaster, the ABC, about disappearing snow. For example, SMH reported back in 2011 that “AUSTRALIA’S ski slopes could be completely bare of natural winter snow by 2050 unless concerted action is taken against global warming“, and the ABC and SMH have wasted no opportunity over the years to reinforce that message.

There are, unsurprisingly, many people in the Snowies who think their snow will disappear within about 30 years. After all, if prospects were that bad in 2011, and with the gloom and doom messages getting more strident every year, prospects must be truly dismal by now. Mustn’t they?

Snowy Hydro, the Snowy Mountains hydropower company that supplies about a third of Australia’s renewable electricity, measures snow depths because it needs to know how much water it is going to get from the snow melt each year.

They provide a chart of the snow depth here. The data is collated from seven stations at Spencers Creek, between Perisher and Charlotte Pass.

I put the annual max depth into a spreadsheet and plotted it.

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The linear trend was a loss of less than half a cm (0.2 in) per annum. Not exactly scary. And the data isn’t that accurate anyway – in recent years, they have only reported the depth to the nearest cm.

To my eye, the level has been picking up since about 2006.

I added in a 3rd-order polynomial fit (the curved line), which shouldn’t be taken too seriously because the data is only over a short period and the early data is highly variable. It’s an interesting way of looking at the data, nothing more. And it should be noted that the peak and trough in the curve are close enough to the end points to possibly be end-effects.

I looked for other historical records of snow depth that went up to 2018, and found only one – for the ski resort of South Perisher. South Perisher is very close to Spencer’s Creek, and its data is very similar to Snowy Hydro’s, but the data starts in 1954 so I did the same graph for South Perisher :

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The peak on the curved line has moved to the left, and both peak and trough could still just be end-effects. But – and I think this matters – the linear trend for the 1954-2018 series was stronger at -0.76cm p.a. than the 1978-2018 series at -0.48cm p.a. This is just the sort of effect that could be expected from data with a multi-decadal cycle in it. [NB. That doesn’t prove there’s a cycle – the time period of the data is too short.]. There was some South Perisher data for 2019, but it had not reached maximum in the given data so I left it out of the graphs.

One last point to note: the last two years’ (2017, 2018) snow levels have been above-average on both time-scales.

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Even the 2019 depth for South Perisher, which had not yet reached maximum in the given data, is higher at 203cm.

Conclusion

The data shows that the rate of snow loss is slowing, not accelerating, and that snow levels might even be increasing again. And that’s good news for Australia’s ski industry.

I hesitate to make any kind of forecast or prediction, but it does look very likely that all messages of impending doom are badly wide of the mark.

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69 thoughts on “The Snow will all have gone from Australia by 2050 – Really?

    • Milanchovitch cycles are how long in your opinion. How do you expect to see their influence on the frequency or severity of an “extreme winter”.

      These cycles are claimed to be the cause of glacial/interglacial cycles, not individual winters. They do not even tie in particularly with that suggestion. Just more attempts to claim we understand past changes ( even though you need a massive feedback to make it work ) and thus any new change must be due to the devil’s gas : CO2.

  1. The decline in the average at Perisher is due to no very large years recently. In other words, fewer extremes….

    • Ski area don’t report anything based on snow making. They use a stake, typically mid-mountain, away from buildings, snow guns, or any other man-made object. In that way they are probably the purest measure of natural snow fall.

        • Not really, ski areas from around the world have adopted standards that are in line with the Swiss, Austrians, and are published by the NSAA in the U.S. You need to separate two numbers that ski areas report, usually on a daily basis. One number is “snowfall, last 24 hours.” the other number is “base.” The former is natural snowfall, the latter is packed snow depth on a major run that is typically near the base of the area. That latter number would include snow from both natural and man-made sources, but it doesn’t figure, in any way, in the snowfall totals for a ski area.

    • Snow making requires cold temperatures. This year in Colorado it has been so cold that a few resorts have opened days and weeks before planned, and Winter Park, which opens today, is opening the earliest in its 80 years.

      Opening is also boosted by natural snow. Weather is perhaps more critical than climate, and weather is highly variable. Still, Colorado has enjoyed generally good conditions this past decade.

      • ‘Cold’ temperatures? I have never met one of these. Are they animal, vegetable or mineral? I have experienced high, low, average and normal but never cold or hot temperatures.

  2. Of course the snow is decreasing, after all nearby Rutherglen had to have it’s flat to cooling temperature trend over the last ~100 years upward adjusted, so the snow should follow suit.

      • Here in Western Canada, additional snowfall is caused by global warming due to the extra moisture carrying capacity of the low level air before it is forced upslope and cooled. Reduced snowfall is caused by warm temperatures. So the climedia hacks have it covered both ways.

  3. Snowy Hydro would be very careful for the snow levels not to be contaminated by any artificial snow making I’m sure. For obvious reasons.

  4. NICE analysis Mike.
    IMHO, Snow will signal the death of the CO2-induced #GlobalWarming farce. Ppl can see and feel the white, fluffy stuff that needs *cold* air to proliferate. They will then become overtly suspicious of the fraudulent temp adjustments and “HOTTEST YEAR EVAHH” propaganda spewed by #CAGW cultists.

    One query// Spencers Creek data set goes back to 1954, no?

    • sure has been soils only just starting to warm but tomatos self seeding still arent or pumpkins etc
      only people with seedlings are buying them in OR using greenhouses coming week onight temps down to 7c or so again forcast.
      and we had more snow on the Vic alps last week as well. not much but ANY at this time isnt the average

  5. Welp, looks like they’re getting for spring what we’re getting for winter – weather that doesn’t fit the Cagwers’ Plan of Action! Fine by me.

    Total snow for my AO, after I shoveled it off my front steps and sidewalk: 5.25 inches, overnight temp dropped to 20F, and my geraniums will have to be trimmed off and the pots put into the garden shed. And I was so hoping for a couple of weeks more before I did that. 🙁 I took photos, as usual. And some geese are still here, of course. Why would you move on when there’s open water, food and shelter from the storm is still available?

    Oh, well. Summer was fun while it lasted. The Old Fafmers Almanac for the Lower Lakes (my AO) is for a wet, warm winter, but they do generalized forecasts, not area specific, and this fits their prognostication.

    • Yup, N.IL here 6 inches on the ground and 20F this morning. Cold and snowy for the trick-or-treaters.

  6. Usually they wait until the snow season starts , and then try to dampen peoples fun with the “it wont be like this for much longer” stories.

    It was funny during the kiddies climate protests a few months ago, our lefty news cut to a shot of kids in the snowfields holding up signs demanding “climate action now!” (whatever that means) The irony of them standing in knee deep snow in September seemed to be lost. As was their transport to the snowfield in mummy and daddys SUV and the comfy fossil fuel derived clothes they were in, or the nice plastic/composite ski gear they were using. Climate action now! yeah!

  7. Does that David Viner chap from the Uk Met office work for these clowns now?? He stated categorically 20 years ago that ” … children in the UK soon won’t know what snow is…”
    Since then the Uk has had some very heavy snowfalls and this alarmist “scientist” has just melted away.

    • Davi November 1, 2019 at 4:06 am
      Does that David Viner chap from the Uk Met office work for these clowns now?? He stated categorically 20 years ago that ” … children in the UK soon won’t know what snow is…”
      Since then the Uk has had some very heavy snowfalls

      Which is exactly what Viner said would happen: “Heavy snow will return occasionally, but when it does we will be unprepared. We’re really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time”.

      At the time of the article London had been without snow for ten years.

      • Here is the whole quote; Nothing about “heavy snow returning.”
        “According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.
        “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.
        Of course he may have tried to weasel out of his stupid statement later by trying to cover all the weather and snow bases like a typical alarmist.

        • I suggest you read the original Independent article, you are mistaken. As pointed out children under the age of ten at the time of the article from London wouldn’t have encountered snow.

  8. Some tracks still closed due to snow and snow damage , according to the CSIRO by the year 2020 the Aussie alps are supposed to be all but snow free .
    This year was a bumper season which was extended due to the amount of snow around .

  9. Australia can have the snow in the Midwest…really come and take it.

    I am hoping this will be a mild winter, but it is not starting out that way 😡

  10. It looks like your data is from the wrong planet. It seems you’re looking at Earth rather than Model Earth. The model skiers on Model Earth are an endangered species.

  11. A few years ago the alarmists were claiming that the number of seasons with > 2m cover no longer occured and this was due to AGW. Not surprisingly, the last 3 years have all exceeded 2m cover at Spencers Creek, and it’s only the 3rd time we have had 3 consecutive years of 2m or more cover since 1954.

    • Thanks, Serge, I hadn’t noticed about the 3 consecutive years of 2m or more. That’s pretty encouraging (for skiers).

  12. The Climate Liars and Numpties of various stripes love to push the “disappearing snow and ice” angle, due to the inherent emotionalism. It’s the “broken cookie” syndrome, and is part and parcel to the CAGW gestalt. It’s also the reason why they latched onto the notion of polar bears “going extinct”, and why, despite much evidence to the contrary, they stubbornly hang on to it. Pure emotionalism. They don’t need or want facts. Oh, they try to hide behind the laughable claim that “the science” is becoming more and more “robust”. Yeah, of course it is. Because they say so. Uh huh. Riiiiight.

  13. I have been checking snow records by going to On the snow and looking at our SNOW depths for the last few years. What do you know, some years are high and some are low. I have not found one record that would indicate a area is loosing snow over time. This year we had news reports of towns in Western NSW that had snow falls they have not had for 30 years. I bet my last dollar we will still have snow to ski on by 2050.

  14. One can understand that Ski resorts depend upon snow, snow depth and snow quality for good ski seasons.
    I doubt many of them utilize professional weather equipment or personnel to religiously collect exact measurements.

    “Snowy Hydro, the Snowy Mountains hydropower company that supplies about a third of Australia’s renewable electricity, measures snow depths because it needs to know how much water it is going to get from the snow melt each year.”

    Snow falls in an amazing number of forms; many of which are indications of a particular snow’s water content and/or the conditions that formed the snow.
    Leaving agencies and departments dependent upon snows water content surprisingly ignorant if they just use a ski resort’s snow depth estimate.

    Do those past snowfall amounts reflect powder snow at 20″ of snow per inch of rain? Or is it a damp snow with high water content at 4″-5″ of snow per inch of water?
    Did the snow fall as rime or graupel?
    Or did the snow fall as dry powder?

    Factors that destroy Snow Hydro’s intended usage of how much water will they receive from the snow.
    It also destroys graphed histories of snow because the average water content is automatically assumed to be an average not from actual measurements.

    A fractional claimed trend over decades where snow depth measurement is collected via widely different methods and people over months and years.
    No professionals are walking up to a snow measurement at an exact maintained prescribed height and closely eyeballed exactly the snow’s height at a specific time/date. Instead the measurement is a broad piece of tape or paint on a stake/stick/tree that is approximately at a certain height, so someone passing close by (feet, meters, yards, tens of meters, etc.) can estimate snowfall.

    All of which suggests the absurdity of claiming precision snow measurements and trends from originating data that is collected loosely and at large granularity.

    • Do you also say that about data when you like what it says?
      Snowy Hydro collects the data it needs. It doesn’t need to be accurate to 1 litre.
      We all have to work off available data, and I doubt that Snowy Hydro’s data is as useless as the weather station temperature data relied on by climate scientists.
      I hope (and think) that I put in enough caveats.

    • The snow depth over the catchment of the Victorian Kiewa Hydro Electric Scheme was once estimated based on periodic manual measurement of snow depth on snow poles. The poles were set-up in lines traversing the catchment. This gave a reasonable indication of the amount of water available for generation in the coming summer season. Not sure what method is used currently, nor whether the old data would still be available.
      CSIRO in a 2003 report, “The impact of climate change on snow conditions in mainland Australia” forecast a significant reduction in Australian snow cover in years to come:
      “The area with at least 60 days of cover shrinks 18-60% by 2020, and 38-96% by 2050.”
      https://web.archive.org/web/20150907231320/http:/www.climatechange.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/73212/TheImpactofClimateChangeonSnowConditions2003.pdf
      Maybe CSIRO has lost confidence in those predictions as the report seems to have disappeared down the memory hole.

  15. 3rd order (or higher) polynomial curve fitting is really a dangerous exercise. You did say that they should not be taken seriously but readers will see the graphs and may take them at face value. Using a third order means one end must go up and one end must come down (unless the results are a pure linear or quadratic set). At least you did not apply extrapolation to 2100 like many sea level rise pundits, who shall be nameless, have done based on 25 year satellite readings.

    • re “one end must go up and one end must come down”.
      (a) Not for a segment.
      (b) The right-hand end might have turned down. It didn’t.
      I hope (and think) that I put in enough caveats.

      • I agree if a segment is being fitted but in both your graphs there is a maximum peak and minimum trough shown so if the right hand branch turns down it would imply a 4th power curve.
        I know you did not do any extrapolation but it is important that when outside the data range the values are controlled more and more by the highest power term and so quickly tend towards + and/or -ve infinite values and so have a more dramatic affect on extrapolated values as you move away from the end data points.
        I think very rarely would a set of data forming a segment of a 3rd power curve but whose peak and trough fell outside the data range be analyzed as a 3rd power unless there was some strong evidence of cubic behaviour.

  16. In 1980 we skied South Perisher on the big crowded weekends because no one ever went there. It was a dinkie-toy little T-bar with absolutely nothing else anywhere around it and it required going up and down 4 lifts and half the afternoon to get back to the main station.
    It surprises me that snow depth records there go back to 1954, though there is a big wide flat valley floor to shoosh across to get their from Mt Perisher that, maybe unaffected by drifts, could make it a good place to measure for some Aussie enthusiast.
    Very few Australian skiers could even find the place, let alone get there and back in a day on skis.
    My mates who have been the Ski Patrollers at Perisher/Smiggon’s since the late 70s tell me they notice no change. Good and ordinary, like always. And a real good year this year and great late cold falls, and an extended season.

  17. Dear jesus.
    1. No QA On the data.
    2. No spatial map of the data.
    3. No uncertainty analysis.

    Horrible curve fit with no physical justification or residuals.

    Ffs

  18. ATheoK said “Leaving agencies and departments dependent upon snows water content surprisingly ignorant if they just use a ski resort’s snow depth estimate.” “Factors that destroy Snow Hydro’s intended usage of how much water” ……
    “No professionals are walking up to a snow measurement at an exact maintained prescribed height and closely eyeballed exactly the snow’s height at a specific time/date.”
    (….)
    imagination talks VS facts
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD9hVErvZ8A
    -> snow hydro provides weekly numbers : snowdepht , and snow water equivalent is checked too !

  19. Mike, you write, “Snowy Hydro, the Snowy Mountains hydropower (sic) company that supplies about a third of Australia’s renewable electricity,…” Here in the Wonderland of California hydro power is, by legislative fiat, not renewable. Since California prides itself on leading the way in all things progressive, I am certain that it is only a matter of time before the Oz political and evironmental classes follow our lead and Snowy Hydro can stop measuring the snow that will have ceased to exist.

  20. Perisher opened the sky season weeks early and closed weeks later this year.
    Longest season in memory apparently.

    So there’s that.

  21. Snow levels in Australia are probably declining now because it’s springtime in Australia.

    Not to fear, the snow will be back next winter.

    • Any opportunity for a spin on climate extinction Hannam is right at the front of the queue. He has posted some seriously flawed pieces but not a surprise for the SMH.

    • Climedia hacks literally make up these reader baiting articles in a few minutes of their time. Occasionally they talk to someone professing to be an expert over the phone before penning their panic piece. It’s a shame they get paid by the word. They should be fined for making the readers stupider with their “information journalism”.

  22. Recall also that the 60s and 70s were the years of ice age predictions, so you might be starting from a high level

  23. An interesting article Mike and I agree with your conclusions. However your presumptions about the basic data are not correct! You should always use data from the original source if this is possible.

    Both the “South Perisher” and the “Snowy Magazine” data are not original and were all measured by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectic Authority (SMHEA) and later by Snowy Hydro. These data have been collected at a special survey site at Spencer’s Creek since 1954. Spencer’s Creek is about 6 km southwest of Perisher Valley at an elevation of 1,830 m. The data are all available on the Snowy Hydro website, snowyhydro.com.au Look for their “Snow Depth Calculator” page.

    A couple of years ago I did an analysis of snow depth trends at SpencersCreek, which is probably still applicable. The peak snow depth in 2019 was 226 cm which indicates that the reduction in snow depth continues to be very slight. https:/briangunterblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/snow-depth-trends-in-snowy-mountains-australia/

  24. That is good news for the ski industry and Australia in general. Not to say that the weather doesn’t cause bad effects on other industries. Trying to help the environment has so much things to consider.

    With trying to move to clean energy, while snow itself doesn’t hurt efforts that much, hail does. It isn’t a secret that hurricanes and hail can damage solar panels and most likely wind turbines aswell.
    https://www.ablison.com/solar-panels-hail-and-hurricanes/

  25. Back above on Nov 1st are 3 exchanges between me and Mike Jonas regarding 3rd order curve fitting. I thought a further reply may get lost so am attaching as a new thread.
    The attached link is to a screen image of an Excel file illustrating some aspects of 3rd order curve fitting.
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zYXhxYCw6i7A4PnvqTgQLx7uBMLerYfZ8GcNf12QlNE/edit?usp=sharing
    Firstly 5 values were chosen of a cubic nature. Fig 1 shows a 3rd order fit and the resulting formula.
    Fig 2 uses 31 values generated from that formula and a subsequent 3rd order curve fit.
    Figs 3 to 5 show 3 segments of the 31 values and a 3rd order curve fit.
    Fig 3 uses all the values between the trough and peak.
    Figure 4 uses a smaller subset of 11 points.
    And Fig 5 only 5 values from the central region.
    These last 3 plots all, as expected, give the correct 3rd order formula but in my opinion if confronted with the set of values on each graph I would not have attempted a 3rd order fit, particularly in fig 4 and 5 which only a linear fit would suffice given that in reality some errors in readings would also come into the assessment.
    In fig 3 the curve is like a “S” curve or part of a sinusoidal curve and some thought of the possible physical processes would help decide but again a 3rd order curve may not be suitable.
    But a secondary aspect of this is the use of extrapolation as the highest order term will quickly dominate once outside the range of values. Extrapolate and be Damned. I know Mike has not attempted any predictions but too many loud voices out there are too eager to carry out quite long-term extrapolation, sometimes on quite short term (25 years) information.

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