Zermatt Summer Skiing Closes Temporarily

ChrisC

Well-known member

Do you think this is an accurate statement?

Mount Sonnblick is a 3,106-meter (10,190-foot) high mountain in the Austrian Alps. It averages more than 20 meters (66 feet) of snow a year.

The Mount Sonnblick Observatory was built in 1886, following a meteorologic society conference that decided we didn't know enough about high-altitude atmospheric conditions. The location was deemed to be one of the few really accessible sites in Europe over 3,000 meters (9,840 feet), and the fact a nearby village was an early pioneer of electricity didn't hurt. It's been carefully recording data ever since, today supplemented with cameras connected to the Internet.

The existence of a reliable record of temperature, precipitation, and snowmelt over such a long period, the longest in the world at such high altitude, has proven invaluable for climatologists.


That is nearly 800 inches. Makes it a very snowy environment.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
Melting glaciers are even changing borders in Zermatt/Cervinia: link

Where the Italian-Swiss border traverses Alpine glaciers, the frontier follows the watershed line. But the Theodul Glacier lost almost a quarter of its mass between 1973 and 2010. That exposed the rock underneath to the ice, altering the drainage divide and forcing the two neighbours to redraw around a 100-metre-long stretch of their border.

Also, the new Zermatt/Cervinia S3 super gondola seems like a waste - at least from a skiers perspective. But I now understand a lot of lift companies in the Alps can make more money on Summer tourism for some key, iconic lifts.

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Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Sonnblick summarized data 1971-2000:
Area/LocationAltitude RangeOctNov.Dec.Jan.Feb.Mar.Apr.Nov.-Apr. TotalSeason TotalData Years
Sonnblick ObservatoryN/ASnow
66.69​
97.01​
106.85​
94.09​
80.20​
111.26​
115.59​
605.00​
892.05​
1971-2000
10,184Water
4.72​
5.72​
5.69​
5.02​
4.33​
5.99​
6.26​
33.02​
65.86​
1971-2000
Percent
7.1%​
5.9%​
5.3%​
5.3%​
5.4%​
5.4%​
5.4%​
5.5%​
May-Oct32%
% sn/pcp50%

Snow Pct. of PrecipNov/DtoAA-O/NtoMMayJunJulAugSepOct
19.1%​
8.8%​
Snow
80.16​
48.70​
28.35​
20.20​
42.95​
66.69​
20.9%​
4.9%​
Water
5.48​
5.75​
6.47​
5.82​
4.60​
4.72​
74%​
assume >N-A is rain
Percent​
6.8%​
11.8%​
22.8%​
28.8%​
10.7%​
7.1%​
87%​
assume >10% is rain
0.88​
3.64​
3.80​
0.31​
I believe that the snowfall totals are likely overstated due to that 5.5% Nov-Apr average water content. But if the water content averages 8% (similar to intermountain North America, which I think is about right with sufficient altitude in the Alps), that's still 613 inches per year and 416 Nov-Apr.

But these Sonnblick stats do indicate why the Alps' glaciers are in trouble. Precipitation is not seasonal in the Alps as it is in western North America. Half of Sonnblick's precipitation falls May-October, and from 1971-2000 32% of its snow fell May-October. Flip much of that 32% from snow to rain and surely there's a radical change in the balance between winter accumulation (which is probably the same at 10,000+ feet) and summer melting.
 
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