A comparative assessment of the potential impact of climate change on the ski industry in New Zealand and Australia
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Abstract In this paper we assess the impact of climate change, at a micro-scale for a selection of four sites in New Zealand and Australia. These sites are representative of the key destination ski regions. In contrast to previous work, our work will for the first time, allow for a direct comparison between these two countries and enable both an estimate of the absolute impacts at a given site, as well as the relative impacts between the two countries. This direct comparison is possible because we have used exactly the same snow model, the same 3 global climate models (GCMs) and the same techniques to calibrate the model for all locations. We consider the changes in natural snow at these locations for the 2030-2049 and 2080-2099 time periods, for one mid-range emissions scenario (A1B). This future scenario is compared to simulations of current, 1980-1999, snow at these locations. We did not consider the snowmaking or economic components of the ski industry vulnerability, only the modelled changes in the natural snow component. At our New Zealand sites, our model indicates that by the 2040s there will be on average between 90 % and 102 % of the current maximum snow depth (on 31 August) and by the 2090s this will be on average reduced to between 46 % and 74 %. In Australia, our models estimates that by the 2040s there will be on average between 57 % and 78 % of the current maximum snow depth and by the 2090s this will be on average further reduced to between 21 % and 29 %. In terms of days with snowdepths equal to or exceeding a ski industry useable levels of 0.30 m, at our lowest elevation, and most sensitive sites, we observe a change from 125 days (current) to 99-126 (2040s) and 52-110 (2090s) in New Zealand. In Australia, a reduction from 94 to 155 days (current) to 81-114 (2040s) and 0-75 (2090s) is observed. In each case the changes are highly depended on the GCM used to drive the climate change scenario. While the absolute changes will have direct impacts at each location, so too will the relative changes with respect to future potential Australia-New Zealand tourism flows, and beyond. Our study provides an approach by which other regions or countries with climate sensitive tourism enterprises could assess the relative impacts and therefore the potential wider ranging ramifications with respect to destination attractiveness.