This holiday season has presented us with incredible snowmobile weather–temperatures soared to 20 degrees (-5 Celcius) and the wind was noticeably absent. The snow, on the other hand, was not so great. In fact, snow conditions across the snow belt are far too scanty for comfort.
One of this week’s snowmobile news items revealed some dramatic drops in snowmobile club participation in Wisconsin. (Read the article here) According to the December 30, 2007 edition of the Wausau Daily Herald, the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs has reported a drop of 28% in family memberships over the past few years. Consecutive mild winters is named as one of the causes.
Mild winters, according to most, are the result of climate change, and climate change is blamed in whole or in part, on industrialization. The Fourth Assessment Report from the United Nations predicts that snow and rain will be reduced by 10 to 30% annually in dryer regions at the mid-latitudes.
A paper by Geoff Mcboyle, Daniel Scott, and Brenda Jones, titled “Climate change and the future of snowmobiling in non-mountainous regions of Canada” has made even more specific projections. Their research suggests that Ontario and Québec, which have the densest network of snowmobile trails and largest number of registered snowmobiles in the country, will be hard hit by climate change in the very near future.
Using a snow-depth model, they predict the average snowmobile season in the 2020s (2010 to 2039) will be reduced between 11% and 44% under the low emission climate change scenario and between 39% and 68% under the high emission climate change scenario. By the 2050s (2040 to 2069) they indicate there will be no reliable snowmobile season at all beyond mountainous areas.
If these researchers are correct–and if North America keeps to the high emission climate change scenario–the sport we love will soon be a thing of the not-so-distant past. While we’re all pulled into individual discussions over specific parks or areas, we’re missing the big picture with emissions. It’s the millions of cars (243,023,485 registered passenger vehicles in the United States according to a 2004 DOT study) and RVs and trucks that are impacting our environment and changing it quickly, not the few all-terrain-vehicles and snowmobiles (1,583,822 according to ISMA). While the focus is on the little guys, the big things are rapidly falling apart.
We can make an impact–we can keep our winter sports! For starters, add a few of these tips from the EPA to your goals for 2008.