Monday, October 3, 2022

The end of winter?

The view from the roof of the "silo" science station on the summit of Whiteface on Sept. 21. Photo by Zachary Matson

In a new paper on how climate change is impacting the Adirondacks, Paul Smith’s College researchers waited until their last paragraph to raise a term that has stayed with me: the demise of winter.

It’s practically an aside in the paper’s concluding discussion.

“Today’s annual crossing and re-crossing of the thermal threshold between solid and liquid water has profound effects on cultures and ecosystems alike, and the eventual loss of that transition – i.e. the demise of winter – could produce the greatest climate-driven changes in the region,” they wrote.

Co-author Curt Stager told me the loss of “winter as we know it” in the Adirondacks is inevitable, with between two and four weeks less of winter conditions by the end of the century and a continued decline next century.

Stager pointed to an article that changed the way he thought about the cultural impact of climate change in a region with strong winter recreation. The paper found that under extreme emissions scenarios Lake Placid is one of just four Winter Olympic host sites out of 21 projected to have climate conditions suitable for a winter games by 2050. Only Sapporo, Japan would have suitable conditions by 2100, according to that 2022 study.

The new Adirondacks climate change study and an earlier article on water withdrawals used for snowmaking at Mt. Van Hoevenberg has sparked some interesting discussion in the comments that shows how emotional and complicated a tapering of winter culture will be.

I spoke with Stager on Friday, the same day that photos started circulating online of the first snowfall at Whiteface Mountain and other High Peaks. I missed the snow but was lucky to catch a cloud inversion when I visited the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center science station at the summit a few days earlier. Lots going on at the sites as researchers examine how the unique station can inform climate and other science after decades on the frontline of monitoring acid rain.

This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

At top: The view from the roof of the “silo” science station on the summit of Whiteface on Sept. 21. Photo by Zachary Matson

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.




2 Responses

  1. Charlie Stehlin says:

    ““Today’s annual crossing and re-crossing of the thermal threshold between solid and liquid water has profound effects on cultures and ecosystems alike, and the eventual loss of that transition – i.e. the demise of winter – could produce the greatest climate-driven changes in the region.”

    And yet people still beech about the cold winters. They beech about 50 degrees! They move in droves to the warmer climes to get away from ‘that horrible cold and that awful snow!’ Even during these lovely chill autumn mornings I hear people beeching about it, wishing it were back to 90 degrees. Not everyone fits this stereotype, but surely a good many million-lots do, or seemingly so. There’s no hope for us, or for planet Earth…… if it is we keep scaling down to wimp stage.

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