Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps


climate change

Is Tasmanian snowpack the future of skiing in Australia?

Anyone who is paying attention can see the changes that are already happening in the Australian mountains. Apart from the environmental costs of global heating, there are massive economic impacts as tourism dependent towns and resorts are disrupted. But there is also a huge cost for recreation. For many of us, the mountains are our ‘heart place’ where we go to ski, ride, paddle, climb and walk. The mountains are a place for camping, for sitting by a river, to recharge. What happens when climate change disrupts our ability to get into the Alps?

Continue reading “Is Tasmanian snowpack the future of skiing in Australia?”

A chance to influence Victoria’s climate policy

We all know that climate change poses an existential threat to mountain environments. For instance, the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear there are serious threats to animals and vegetation across Australian mountain environments.

Climate change is a global problem and requires a global response. All countries must do their part to reduce emissions. It is the same at the state level (especially given the failure of the federal Coalition to act on climate change). There is an important opportunity to influence the Victorian government on its emission reduction targets. But we have less than a week to do so.

Continue reading “A chance to influence Victoria’s climate policy”

This election, vote for the mountains

Global temperatures have risen about 1C since 1900, overwhelmingly due to greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the average increase has been 1.4C. It has been linked to unprecedented bushfires, rainfall events that have caused catastrophic flooding and four mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef since 2016. Skiers and riders know that this has already had a negative impact on our snowpack, which has been in decline since the 1950s.

We know that national leadership on climate change has faltered under the Coalition. The federal election is an important opportunity to demand that all parties commit to decisive action to reduce emissions, and hence play our part in protecting winter.

Continue reading “This election, vote for the mountains”

Longer fire seasons in the USA spell trouble for Australia

After a terrible fire season in the last northern summer, the USA experienced fires right through winter and now, in spring, fires are raging across significant sections of the country.

In New Mexico, a fire has already burnt more than 80,000 ha. It has destroyed nearly 200 homes and led to the evacuation of thousands of families. US Forest Service firefighters say they have lost some ground in their efforts to contain the blaze.

Like in Australia, the USA relies on having enough large air tankers and helicopters to contain fires. However, we currently lease most of these aircraft from North America. As fire seasons in the northern hemisphere grow longer, it will get harder and more expensive to lease aircraft for our summers.

It’s time for Australia to establish a publicly owned air fleet, as was recommended by the Bushfire Royal Commission.

You can support the call for a publicly owned air fleet here >

The rise of the ‘terafire’.

We are hearing ever more frequent mention of ‘Megafires’. The word is an emerging concept commonly used to describe fires that are extreme in terms of size, behaviour, and/or impacts.

In describing ‘Megafires’, it is clear that fire size thresholds vary round the world from > 100 to more 100,000 ha. In Australia, a mega fire year is defined as the cumulative burned area of forest over one year of more than 1 million hectares. Fires greater than 100,000 hectares have also been increasing – check this list for details.

Continue reading “The rise of the ‘terafire’.”

Protect our Winters calls for climate action

KEEN TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE? Protect our Winters (POW) Australia is looking for local organisers in each resort and nearby towns to host a gathering on Saturday June 11th 2022 to help #welcomebackwinter

WHAT? Join us in a major mobilisation of the snow sports community on opening weekend in June.

Continue reading “Protect our Winters calls for climate action”

Fires are getting worse. We need extra firefighting capacity to stop small ones becoming blazes

As we head towards winter, now is the time to think about next summer and the fires that may come after two wet, mild years. There are many things we need to do to be ready for the climate change driven fires of the future. Here is one of them: Victoria should set up a volunteer remote area firefighting team, which can work alongside the government paid fire crews. This would increase our capacity to stop lightning strikes from turning into massive blazes. It’s a good idea. It just needs a bit of political will and money to make it happen.

Continue reading “Fires are getting worse. We need extra firefighting capacity to stop small ones becoming blazes”

Documenting loss of Snow Gums in the VIC Alps

The recent The IPCC WGII Sixth Assessment Report included details about the threat posed by climate change to Snow Gum woodlands (story here). Mountain Journal has been recording the local loss of Snow Gum woodlands across the Australian high country for several years now.

In a welcome sign, the last two summers have been mild and wet, and this has led to reseeding in some previously burnt areas of Snow Gums after years of no growth. However almost every trip to the higher mountains reveals new areas that have been burnt to the point of ecological collapse.

Continue reading “Documenting loss of Snow Gums in the VIC Alps”

The 10th Mountain Climate Project

The 10th Mountain huts are a remarkable network of backcountry huts spread through the mountains of the Rocky Mountains of Central Colorado. They have long been famous among backcountry skiers and riders. Using the network of huts, it is possible to ski from Aspen to Vail (a distance of roughly 150 kilometres, depending on which route you take) and from near Edwards all the way to Leadville. Check here for a Mountain Journal story on the network and backcountry touring in the Central Rockies.

Built over several decades the huts are mostly log cabins, with bunks, lovely communal spaces, and well fitted out kitchens. They have micro solar systems for lighting. 10th Mountain is a not for profit organisation and huts are booked online. They are popular both in winter for skiing/ splitboarding and summer for mountain bike riding.

Last winter they launched a climate project.

Continue reading “The 10th Mountain Climate Project”

Climate change driven fire threatens Tasmania’s forests

While the summer of 2021/22 has been a mild fire season in the east of the country, there have been a small number of significant fires in lutruwita/ Tasmania that have threatened World Heritage Areas (including one that threatened an incredibly significant Huon pine forest). This is because the west of that state has been experiencing a prolonged and extreme drought, with some areas receiving their lowest rainfall on record.

As reported recently in The Conversation, “this drought fits an observed drying trend across the state, which will worsen due to climate change. This is very bad news for the ancient wilderness in the state’s World Heritage Area, where the lineage of some tree species stretch back 150 million years to the supercontinent Gondwana’.

The drying trend has seen a steady increase in bushfires ignited by lightning, imperilling the survival of Tasmania’s Gondwanan legacy, and raising profound fire management challenges.’ Continue reading “Climate change driven fire threatens Tasmania’s forests”

Alpine plants are on the move

We know that climate change poses an existential threat to the mountains that we know and love.

A new study, looking at 36 species of alpine plants, looks at one aspect of the changes that are already underway. It shows that ‘elevational shifts’ are occurring rapidly in the Australian alpine zone. Plants are moving higher (a number are also moving downslope) to find optimal conditions to grow. The authors of the report Alpine plants are on the move: Quantifying distribution shifts of Australian alpine plants through time say that ‘this may allow species to persist under climate change. However, if current warming trends continue, several species within the Australian alpine zone will likely run out of suitable habitat within a century’.

Continue reading “Alpine plants are on the move”

IPCC report points to collapse of Alpine Ash and Snowgum woodland

The IPCC WGII Sixth Assessment Report has just been released (and is available here).

The take home message is:

Further climate change is inevitable, with the rate and magnitude of impact largely dependent on the emission reduction pathways that we choose. Time is running out if we want to act.

The final sentence of new IPCC report is: “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”

The Chapter on Australasia (available here) has a considerable amount of detail on likely impacts on mountain areas of south eastern Australia and lutruwita/ Tasmania. Some of these are summarised below. It looks at both observed impacts and predicted future impacts (applying a level of certainty to each of these).

Continue reading “IPCC report points to collapse of Alpine Ash and Snowgum woodland”

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