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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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snow

‘A brief story of a remarkable Historical gathering’

Mountain Journal has published a number of stories in recent years about the fact that Jaithmathang Original Country elders are returning to the mountains to reconnect with their Yerto (meaning land/country high up).

As Jaithmathang Senior Elder, Loreman and Songman, Goengalla Jumma Myermyal Minjeke said in 2021, “in 1830 there was a population of more than 600 Jaithmathang Original People living in our isolated pristine Yerto Alpines, in our Mountain Ranges and on our fertile High Plains Country”. 

“By the early 1850s our population was decimated and there were only a handful of our people left; there was the arrival and occupation by pastoralists and miners, and then the numerous massacres and killings. The last few Jaithmathang who were left were removed away from our Country to other surrounding settlements”.

Now reconnection is happening. This story comes from Karina Miotto and Goengallayin Jumma Jumma.

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Climate change is driving fire and reducing snow pack

The country’s climate has warmed on average by 1.47C since national records began in 1910, according to the new State of the Climate report released earlier this week.

It reinforces what we already know about climate change impacts on mountain environments:

  • Since the 1950s, extreme fire weather has increased and fire seasons are starting sooner and ending later. We can see the impacts of this in burnt out snow gum woodlands and alpine ash forests in a state of ecological collapse.
  • Snow depth, snow cover and number of snow days have decreased in alpine regions since the late 1950s. (This decline has been known and reported on for years).

Continue reading “Climate change is driving fire and reducing snow pack”

‘Forests, Snowpack and Wildfires Appear Trapped in a Vicious Climate Cycle’

Fire is becoming an increasingly destructive force in mountain areas. This has many environmental and economic impacts. A new study from the USA investigates how extreme wildfires in 2020 affected the water cycle in key mountain forests that store water in the form of snow pack that is released through spring. The findings are consistent with earlier research in the Australian high country.

Continue reading “‘Forests, Snowpack and Wildfires Appear Trapped in a Vicious Climate Cycle’”

“The world is on track to hit as much as 2.8C of warming this century”

Overall, the world has warmed on average just a little over 1oC since the start of the industrial revolution due to human caused climate change. We can see what this has done to winter in the Australian mountains. Snow pack has been in decline since at least 1957. Winter snowfalls are becoming more erratic. Climate change is already visible at lower elevation resorts in the Australian Alps. And recent climate research suggests that the Australian Alps may suffer from a loss of snow as climate change supercharges phenomena known as ‘atmospheric rivers’. These are long, narrow regions of high moisture content in the lower atmosphere that transport most of the water vapour from the tropics to the sub-tropics and midlatitudes,

A new report from UN Climate Change shows that while countries are ‘bending the curve’ of global greenhouse gas emissions downward, that these efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

According to the report, the combined climate pledges of 193 Parties under the Paris Agreement could put the world on track for around 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century. That would mean the end of winters as we know them.

Continue reading ““The world is on track to hit as much as 2.8C of warming this century””

An erratic winter reminds us about the reality of climate change

We know that climate changes is already impacting on the mountains we love. Longer fire seasons, longer droughts, less streamflow, warmer weather. And, of course, declining snowpack.

As we come to the end of a winter marked by classic Australian ‘Boom and Bust’ snow conditions, it is clear that we are on a trajectory towards milder winters and less snow. Snowpack has been in decline in Australia since at least the 1950s. And there are decades worth of studies, reports and media stories which make it clear what’s happening (for instance this story from The Age in 2018).

A new story published by the ABC written by Thomas Saunders reminds us yet again about what is happening in spite of bumper snowfalls in any particular winter.

Continue reading “An erratic winter reminds us about the reality of climate change”

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?

Continue reading “Is this what climate change looks like?”

After Opening Weekend – what next?

After an incredible start to winter, the Alps now have a solid base of snow across higher elevations. There has been some great falls in lutruwita/ Tasmania as well. Resorts have just had big opening weekends (the ‘best start in 22 years’ according to many sources), with some resorts in NSW experiencing partial closure of roads at peak times due to the number of people trying to get to the slopes. Even Ben Lomond in Tasmania had the lifts turning. The snow pack in the backcountry is starting to consolidate nicely.

Everywhere, accommodation was full, venues were cranking, and the slopes were full of people getting their snow legs back and enjoying the novelty of skiing and riding in June.

So what happens now?

Continue reading “After Opening Weekend – what next?”

How much snow is on it’s way?

There were some snowfalls across the Alps last week, and now snow lovers are getting excited about an incoming air mass that could start to deliver significant snowfalls over the weekend or in to next week. As always, the hype probably outweighs the reality. But to be a skier or rider in Australia is to be an eternal optimist.

Continue reading “How much snow is on it’s way?”

‘Atmospheric rivers’ threaten snow pack

We are all familiar with the impacts of climate change on snow in Australia. For instance, the snow pack has been in decline since 1957. And a report commissioned by the Victorian government suggests that the end of natural snow could be as close as a couple of decades.

One obvious phenomena we have seen often in recent years has been weather coming down from the tropics in north western Australia. These rains are often ‘snow killer’ events which can massively impact on the snow base.

Continue reading “‘Atmospheric rivers’ threaten snow pack”

The IPCC report – what does it mean for mountain environments?

The long awaited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Report has now been released.

As expected, it is an urgent wake up call to our political leaders to actually start to take decisive action to tackle the climate crisis. While the information is not really ‘new’, it does remind us of the incredible urgency of taking climate action. Now.

The IPCC says ‘many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion – such as continued sea level rise – are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years’.

However, they do remind us that ‘strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change’. So let’s get to it.

What are the implications for mountain lovers in this new report?

Continue reading “The IPCC report – what does it mean for mountain environments?”

It’s getting hot in here

Australian skiers, boarders and other snow lovers know that our snowpack is often pretty erratic. Last winter saw ‘boom and bust’ snow events then heavy rain that destroyed the base. We all know the misery of rain and drizzle when it should be snowing.

We know that because of climate change, our snow pack has been in decline since the 1950s.

Without serious action on the global scale to reduce emissions, we will see more and more winters like 2020: erratic, sketchy snowpack and lots of rain events.

Continue reading “It’s getting hot in here”

‘State of the Climate 2020’ – what does it mean for mountain environments?

The Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO have just released their updated ”State of the Climate’ report. This is produced every two years and provides an update on what is happening with the latest climate science. As in previous report’s, the impacts of climate change on the Australian landscape are clear. There are also some specific details for people concerned about mountain environments.

Continue reading “‘State of the Climate 2020’ – what does it mean for mountain environments?”

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