XTM braves the Blizzard of Oz#blizzardofoz; #snowymcsnowface and #snowmageddon

Hashtags. Yep, we’ve seen just about every one of the above this winter, along with what are being billed as the biggest dumps of the last decade. But at what point do 'freak' weather conditions that turn the Aussie alps into every amateur photographers’ white-capped wonderland, and have visitors digging their cars out of metres of snow lose their mantel of being 'freaky' and become just plain 'normal'. 

With another big snowstorm this week set to officially make the #BlizzardofOz the latest weather trilogy to hit the Australian ski season - XTM Environment and Weather writer and Snowriders Australia co-founder, Glenn Shiell explains what this means for the future of Australian snow seasons. 

The facts

Clunky hashtags and comparisons with Northern winters have been flying fast and thick lately, but those of us that have been around for a while know the Australian snow season has always had its highs and its lows; from 1981, which blew minds with recorded snowfalls of 360 cm, to 2006 which delivered a less than impressive 85 cm. There is no denying that our climate is highly changeable and this years’ bumper season has the climate change denialists pointing the finger and saying “we told you so”.

Yet despite recent above average falls, the message from scientists is getting louder: the reality is that temperatures are warming and snow falls are sadly declining. A recent report by CSIRO, predicted that climate change could shrink Australia’s skis season by 20 to 55 days a year by 2050; and that’s under a best case scenario!

But here’s the thing.

The experts at CSIRO also flag the enormous ‘variability’, or the range between the peaks and troughs, in the data - a pattern often observed in environmental and particularly climatic data. When you look at the numbers, going back as far as 1954, the decline in snowfall still shows up with the same year to year and month to month variation in the data. What’s more, the ‘variability’, or the range between the highs and the lows seems to be increasing!

What this means is, even though we are seeing an overall trend toward less snow fall on average, big powder dumps are still very much possible and – here’s the kicker – potentially more likely given our changing and increasingly variable climate. Take for example, the recent ‘thundersnow’ conditions associated with Blizzard of Oz 1.0, and the recent tendency for long periods of dry weather, followed by significant events such as Snowmageddon (2016), Blizzard of Oz 2.0 and now Blizzard of Oz 3.0, which could bring the biggest dump of the season (and recent years).

So will conditions like Snowmageddon (2016) and Blizzard of Oz 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 (2017) mean our Facebook feeds will continue to be jammed with images of Aussie alpine regions (and visitor’s cars) under a thick powdery blanket? With snow fall patterns becoming more erratic and the recent trend toward more ‘extreme’ weather events, there’s definitely an argument for it.

Freak weather can be fun

[Image credit: Chris Hosking]

There is a downside however: experts predict that big dumps — like the ones we’ve been seeing — will still happen in a changing climate, but top-up snowfalls may be less regular, and potentially mixed up amongst periods of warmer weather (and possibly rain). So the good news is that even though big dumps are still possible, the bad news is they might be fewer and farther between.

Enter snowmaking

This is where snow making can help. In the short to medium term, snowmaking technology is expected to fill the gaps and provide the tops ups needed between more substantial natural snowfalls. It will come as no surprise then to learn that in the last decade tens of millions of dollars have been spent safeguarding Australia’s ski fields to the ever growing pressure of climate change. Snowmaking is now even possible in temperatures up to plus 30 degrees C. With this investment, it seems our winters are safe for the foreseeable future.

So with yet another #blizzardofoz due to commence early this week, it seems we haven’t seen the last of these hashtag-worthy, but nauseatingly titled events:

#blizzardofoz; #snowymcsnowface and #snowmageddon

Could these events become the new norm? With increasingly unusual peaks and troughs in weather data and the freak conditions we have seen of late, something tells me they could be….and let’s hope so.

If I was to sum up in a hashtag:



Merino comes in handy when your car is under a metre of snow

Merino base layers, gloves and beanies are built for extremes... and came in super handy when we were digging our car out of the ice earlier this month.

Check out XTM's great range.

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