Researchers have found Australian skiers may need to head overseas in search of higher ground thanks to global warming.

Griffith’s Associate Professor Catherine Pickering has researched the effects of declining snow cover and hotter summers on the Australian Alps.

Snow cover is already declining in Australia’s alpine regions, and the trend is expected to continue. The average snow cover at Spencer’s Creek in the Snowy Mountains, the highest altitude snow course in Australia, has declined by 30­ overall and 40% in spring over the last 50 years.

Associate Professor Catherine Pickering said the alpine region is one of Australia’s areas most threatened by climate change and reliance on snow-making is not financially or economically sustainable.

“We’ve predicted by 2020 to lose something like 60% of the snow cover of the Australian Alps,” she said.

“Unfortunately because our current emissions and our current rises in temperatures are at the high end of the predictions, it’s definitely coming to us sooner and faster.

“In a few years the amount of water that ski resorts will need to make snow is going to exceed the amount of water that’s used by Canberra. And it looks like we are heading back towards dry conditions, so where will they get the water?”

Changes we are already seeing including snow melting earlier in spring, increased risk of fires, migratory animals arriving earlier, plants flowering earlier and more weeds and feral animals.

“This region is already dealing with climate change. It’s not an abstract issue or a matter of debate. Its reality for those living and working in Australia’s snow country, said Griffith’s Associate Professor Catherine Pickering.

“For them, the debate is about the success of different strategies that are already using to deal with climate change, such as snow making, promoting summer tourism, fire management and dealing with feral animals and weeds. That’s what resorts, parks, local government and researchers are talking about.”

Associate Professor Catherine Pickering