Other impacts of climate change globally might have just as
big an effect on Queenstown's ski industry as dwindling snow,
climate specialists say.
''Not to detract from Winter Festival but there is a lot more
to it than [just] how much snow falls,'' Victoria University
Assoc Prof James Renwick says.
One scientific paper suggests that by the 2040s, maximum snow
depth could range between 90% and 102% of present levels but
by the 2090s this could drop to between 46% and 74%.
This translated into estimates of ski days from 125 days in
2010 to 99 to 126 in the 2040s and dropping to 52 to 110 in
the 2090s, the paper said.
''We'll survive till mid-century but things will get stickier
by end of the century,'' Canterbury University Assoc Prof Ian
The issue was discussed last night at a Queenstown Winter
Festival event: ''Queenstown 2040: Where will the snow be?''
As well as featuring climate specialists Prof Owen and Prof
Renwick, mechanical engineering specialist Prof Susan
Krumdieck and Queenstown snow expert Hamish McCrostie were
scheduled to speak.
Prof Renwick said in an interview that by 2040 the
temperature in New Zealand was predicted to rise by 0.5degC
In general, for every 1degC increase the snowline would rise
''That raises the snow line a bit but later in the century
the snow line will go up quite a bit.''
The Southern Alps were expected to get wetter but how much
fell as rain or snow depended on the temperature.
''If it gets warmer, it's more likely to fall as rain and
less as snow.''
The other issue to consider was the effects of international
climate change on world economies, including food and fuel
shortages during the next 50 years which could make air
travel very expensive.
''The numbers of tourists coming here could go way down.''
However, as New Zealand was not expected to be as affected by
climate change, it could look more attractive to those who
did travel, he said.
''There will be snow here a lot longer than in Australia.''
Prof Owens cautioned in an interview snowfall predictions in
the paper under-predicted temperatures.
At the moment there was no good evidence that the amount of
snow which could fall in the period to 2040 would change very
much, Prof Owens said.
Coronet Peak ski area manager Ross Copland said last winter
was New Zealand's warmest on record and it was felt on the
ski fields, which got only 180cm of snow compared with the
annual average of 200cm.
He said the industry's bigger concern and ''imminent
reality'' was the end of cheap fossil fuels and carbon taxes.
''That could happen at a faster rate and could put New
Zealand and its tourism industry at significant risk.''