CH Comments on Evolving Aspects of Outdoor Winter Recreation under Climate Change

CH director Professor John Pomeroy was asked by The Globe and Mail this week to comment on the likely influences of climate-change on winter outdoor pursuits in two strongly contrasting contexts.

For the first article (published on Sunday 31st January 2016), he was asked how risks associated with mountain snowpacks might alter with changing climatic conditions, following the loss of five snowmobilers’ lives in the BC Rocky Mountains as the result of an avalanche.

He responded that increasing minimum air temperatures should tend generally to result in more consolidated snowpacks, which in turn should be more stable. Warmer, wetter snow is also less likely to be transported by wind, to form cornices on the lees of ridges: sudden failure of such features is a common cause of avalanches. However, there are signs that winter weather patterns may be swinging more frequently between extremes of warm and cold: this will influence patterns and characteristics of precipitation, and alter snowpack metamorphic processes, thereby increasing the challenge of accurately forecasting avalanche risks.

The second (published on Wednesday 3rd February 2016) considered how warmer winter conditions are impacting the viability of outdoor rinks, and thus opportunities for shinny and other varieties of informal hockey. Dr Pomeroy’s prognosis was pessimistic, in view of increasing occurrences of warm temperatures and rainfall, and the corresponding unreliability of ground remaining frozen throughout the winter, in many areas of the country. (Those with an interest in this serious risk to one of the nation’s key icons of winter identity, not to mention its future hockey prospects, might also be interested in the RinkWatch project.)

The articles are available for online viewing here: