Science: Climate change could halve the number of snow days in the Alps


A new study has revealed that the climate crisis could have catastrophic effects in the Alps. However, the scientists also showed how severely the damage could be reduced.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, there will be much less snow in the Alps in the future. In the worst case – without climate protection measures – gradual global warming could lead to the number of days in which average snow cover across the Alpine region is nearly halved by the end of the century, according to binary research in the specialist journal. Hydrology and Earth Sciences Writes. The southern Alps will be particularly affected, that is, areas in Italy, Slovenia and France.

The duo, led by Michael Matteo of the Orac Research Center in Bolzano, Italy, first looked at snow cover in the Alps for the years 2000 to 2020 with the help of satellite data. For certain regions and elevations, they specified how many days of the year there was snow. The height of the ice sheet has not been examined. With the help of climate models, the researchers then created different scenarios for future snow status in the Alpine region – depending on the further course of the climate crisis. According to the study, the lower elevations will lose a particularly large number of snow days, and the higher elevations will decrease.

Compliance with Paris climate goals would significantly reduce damage

There are also regional differences. Mathieu stresses that complying with the Paris climate goals – limiting warming to less than 2 degrees, and if possible 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times – would significantly limit the damage. “This gives hope,” says the researcher.

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Example: at an altitude of 2500 m, averaged over the entire alpine region, there was snow on 239 days of the year. In a worst-case scenario – with a global warming of 4 to 5 degrees – it will be only 163 days by the end of the century. According to new forecasts, if the Paris climate goals are met, there will still be 213 days with snow cover at this altitude. At an altitude of 500 metres, the average number of snow days in the Alps will decrease from 19 to five if temperatures are very high. With emissions significantly reduced, it will still be 15 days. (dpa)

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