A high-resolution (4 km) regional climate simulation conducted with the Weather Research and Forecasting Model is used to investigate potential impacts of global warming on skiing conditions in the interior western United States (IWUS). Recent-past and near-future climate conditions are compared. The past climate period is from November 1981 to October 2011. The future climate applies to a 30-yr period centered on 2050. A pseudo-global warming approach is used, with the driver reanalysis dataset perturbed by the CMIP5 ensemble mean model guidance. Using the 30-yr retrospective simulation, a vertical adjustment technique is used to determine meteorological parameters in the complex terrain where ski areas are located. For snow water equivalent (SWE), Snowpack Telemetry sites close to ski areas are used to validate the technique and apply a correction to SWE in ski areas. The vulnerability to climate change is assessed for 71 ski areas in the IWUS considering SWE, artificially produced snow, temperature, and rain; 20 of the ski areas will tend to have fewer than 100 days per season with sufficient natural and artificial snow for skiing. These ski areas are located at either low elevations or low latitudes, making these areas the most vulnerable to climate change. Throughout the snow season, natural SWE decreases significantly at the low elevations and low latitudes. At higher elevations, changes in SWE are predicted to not be significant in the midseason. In mid-February, SWE decreases by 11.8% at the top elevations of ski areas and decreases by 25.8% at the base elevations.
- Climate change