Estimating the Quantity and Quality of Snow at the Aspen Ski Area for the Years 2030 and 2100

TitleEstimating the Quantity and Quality of Snow at the Aspen Ski Area for the Years 2030 and 2100
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2006
AuthorsLazar, B., Smith J., and Williams M.
Conference Name74th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 74th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 2006
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationLas Cruces, NM
KeywordsClimate change, Aspen Ski Area, decreased snowpack, emission scenarios, GCM, SRM

We evaluated how climate change resulting from increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may affect the quantity of snow at Aspen Mountain ski area in 2030 and 2100. We modeled climate change using MAGICC/SCENGEN, and ran combinations of five general circulation models (GCMs) and three GHG emission scenarios. Snow quantity was evaluated using the Snowmelt Runoff Model (SRM), and a module developed to estimate snow quantity during the accumulation season, before snowmelt initiation. We used the five GCMs that best simulate current conditions, and three emission scenarios representing low, mid, and high emissions conditions. The date when snow starts to accumulate at the base area is delayed by six to seven days by 2030 and anywhere from 1.5 to 4.5 weeks by 2100. For mid-winter snows, a 15% increase in snowfall compensates for a 1.5°C increase in air temperature such that there was little change in snow depth. Snow depth goes to almost zero for the base area in 2100 under the medium GHG emission A1B scenario. In the high GHG emission A1F1 scenario, snow depth goes to near zero for the entire lower two-thirds of the mountain. The effect is substantially reduced under the low GHG emissions B1 scenario.