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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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climate change

Seminar – Climate change, fire and the Victorian Alps

A report from the ‘Climate change and the Victorian Alps – preparing for the fires of the future’ seminar, which was held as part of the speakers program for the 2022 Victorian backcountry festival at Mt Hotham on September 2.

Speakers included an academic, a local landcare representative, Parks Victoria and DELWP.

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Deep powder. The long arc of climate change. And the beauty that lies between.

After a day of grey clouds and drizzly rain, I woke up to the silence of deep, dry cold powder snow across the mountain. I jumped on the skis and meandered up through the old trees to one of my favourite hills, to be greeted by views of the higher mountains. It was pure, blissful magic. The world felt perfect. If you have ever seen the psychedelic ski film Valhalla, the words will come back to you: you can always find ‘brilliance, awe and magic running through life‘ if you wish to see it.

Two days later, more rain and a warm burst, and the snow was gone from the lower elevations and I was walking through green forest. It is mid August – when snow pack should be at its deepest. After that brief moment of bliss at feeling that things were ‘right’, I felt back in the ‘real’ world, where climate change is coming for all the places and people we love.

If you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the mountains – longer fire seasons, more erratic weather, variable snow pack and shorter winters – then its natural to feel anxious and depressed. It’s a human reaction to what is happening to the world – and the specific places – that we love. It’s the same story everywhere, from the deserts to the rainforests to the mangroves, to the forests of the Central Highlands and south west WA.

Continue reading “Deep powder. The long arc of climate change. And the beauty that lies between.”

The multiple threats to the survival of snow gums

For years now, Mountain Journal has posted about the multiple threats posed to our mountain environments which link back to climate change, including increased frequency of fire, higher temperatures, more frequent drought, and more impact from dieback (which is a natural phenomenon which is being super charged by global heating). These have also been documented in the Friends of the Earth report An Icon at Risk.

Its always good to see mainstream news coverage of these threats.

Genelle Weule, writing for ABC Science, has written an indepth piece which covers these threats.

Continue reading “The multiple threats to the survival of snow gums”

As the northern hemisphere burns, what are the lessons for Australia?

The northern hemisphere summer has been terrible. Heat waves have killed many thousands, from Iran and India to Portugal and France. Flash flooding has closed the Grand Canyon, while ‘Lake’ Mead, a massive dam on the Colorado River, is almost empty. Across the northern hemisphere, from Siberia and Alaska to normally temperate countries like England and even Ireland there have been devastating wild fires.

Droughts, which are exacerbated by a warming climate, are making wildfires more frequent, destructive, and harder to fight in many places. Firefighters in temperate countries are often not equipped or trained in dealing with landscape scale fires. There are not prepared for potentially months long seasons. In one month, wildfires tore through Portugal, Spain, France, England and Germany, which had all seen record-high temperatures. Greece and Turkey also burnt. This challenged the fire fighting capacity in each country. For instance, in mid August, a wildfire broke out in France’s Gironde region. The fire grew to more than 15,000 acres in a short time and 8,000 people were evacuated. Local firefighting capacity was overwhelmed. Firefighters from a number of countries, including Sweden and Italy, were mobilised to support local efforts.

[Header image: Geoffrey Browne]

Continue reading “As the northern hemisphere burns, what are the lessons for Australia?”

Climate change, fire and mountain environments

We know that climate change is already impacting on the Australian Alps. Declining snow pack, hotter summers, and longer fire seasons are just some of the impacts we are seeing. This brings many challenges to land managers, and is changing the mountain landscapes we know and love.

Additionally, local economies rely on the beautiful natural surroundings of the Alps, which attract skiers, riders and others from around the state and the country. Declining environments will impact on the numbers of visitors and hence local economies.

This short seminar will delve into the issue of fire, and how we need to respond to longer and more intense seasons in the Victorian mountains.

If you can’t attend the event, it will be livestreamed via the event facebook page.

Continue reading “Climate change, fire and mountain environments”

Is this what climate change looks like?

In recent days there have been several reports of large avalanches occurring on the western slopes of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains, in places like Watsons Crag and the Sentinel Peak area. These highlight the risks of skiing and riding on these large and often steep slopes and act as a reminder that, yes, avalanches do occur in Australia.

They may also be pointing to something else. Is this part of the future of backcountry skiing and riding as climate change kicks in?

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This tax time can you support campaigns to protect our mountain environments?

Mountain Journal is one of my passions. Along with things like my involvement in the backcountry festival, Protect our Winters, and the Mt Hotham Dinner Plain CFA, there are many ways I try to share my love for the mountains. One of my other passions is my work as campaigns co-ordinator for environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE). In the last few years FoE has started to do substantial work in support of mountain environments.

Continue reading “This tax time can you support campaigns to protect our mountain environments?”

After two mild summers, burnt snow gum forests are recovering.

Over the past couple of years, various people have been tracking the localised loss of snow gums in the Victorian high country due to more frequent and intense fires. We know that snow gums are, like many Australian trees, fire adapted. But we also know that they enjoy a decent gap between fires and that with climate change already increasing the frequency and intensity of fires, that we are starting to see localised loss (‘collapse’) of these woodland communities.

Given my connection to the Mt Hotham/ Dinner Plain/ Dargo High Plains area, initial investigations started there. Sadly, there is no shortage of localised collapse in that area, where repeat fires have killed off both parent trees and seedling regrowth. But through advertising via Mountain Journal and the Snow Gum citizen science facebook page, we started to get reports from across the Victorian Alps, from Mt Clear in the ranges south west of Howitt to Mt Pinnibar, in the far north east of the state. Thanks to everyone who contributed content.

Having greater numbers of people looking has given a wider sense of where loss is happening. But it has also given us an understanding that, in many areas, the trees are now starting to come back.

This is wonderful news.

Continue reading “After two mild summers, burnt snow gum forests are recovering.”

Mt Wills – a precious sub alpine plateau in need of protection

As we waited for the snow to arrive last week, it seemed like the right time for the annual pilgrimage to Mt Wills. I have often written about what a special mountain it is, tucked away behind the eastern fall of the Bogong High Plains and Mt Bogong (named Warkwoolowler in the Waywurru and Dhudhuroa languages). I love that strange hut on the little summit plateau, the grassy meadows with old snow gums scattered everywhere,  the endless rock outcrops and rocky escarpment on the east side.

Mt Wills is a classic ‘island in the sky’ of isolated snow gum woodland. While it is connected by a long and high ridge back to Bogong, mostly the land falls away to deep river valleys and forests initially dominated by Alpine Ash. It feels like a small sub alpine sea poking out into the upland valleys of the eastern Alps. I love the silence and perspective back to other mountains. But what really draws me back year after year are the ancient snow gums.

Continue reading “Mt Wills – a precious sub alpine plateau in need of protection”

POW actions to mark Opening weekend – please join in

We’re ready for winter.

And We’re ready for climate action.

#75by2030

Join our actions over opening weekend (Saturday June 11).

We all know that winter is in trouble. Cold powder and snow pack are in decline. We have a window of opportunity to protect winter. But we need to act now.

Continue reading “POW actions to mark Opening weekend – please join in”

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?

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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”

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