Report: Winter economy in peril due to climate change

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6 2012 7:17 p.m. MST

To help do its part, POWDR resorts has invested $6 million on environmental initiatives and is a founding member of the National Ski Area Association's Climate Challenge, in which members detail their carbon footprint and list targets for reduction.

"I think we are one of the exceptions for industry doing this," he said. "I think much more could be done. At the end of the day, it is owners of these corporations who are like-minded, who have these kind of morals, who get behind it and support it."

Severe Weather

This prospect of diminishing snowpacks in winter-dependent economies was detailed on the same day the World Wildlife Fund and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) highlighted 2012 as the year of record, extreme weather.

Drawing on an overview of the year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this new report noted:

• The costliest weather disaster of 2012 was the drought, which could reduce the country's gross domestic product  (GDP) by as much as 1 percent, or by roughly $150 billion.

• Impacts from the drought will spill over into 2013, which will start with far more serious drought conditions than at the beginning of 2012.

• As of Dec. 4, more than 62 percent of the United States was in drought, twice the area in drought a year ago.

That drought played out with severe effects in Utah, sapping its ample reservoir storage held over from the year before, with capacity now at just 61 percent, or 23 percent lower than what it was in 2011.

Those details, also released Thursday by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, speak to stream flows that remain below or much below average at significant number of areas throughout Utah.

The good news for the Wasatch Front is that despite the lack of valley snow on the ground this month, the basins are at average for the amount of precipitation received this water year, which began Oct. 1.

November was drier than usual, but the real test will come in January, when scientists with the National Weather Service and the NRCS start crafting a water supply outlook for the state.

For Giles, beyond the ski runs, the snowboards, the resort condos and money that pumps into the state, there is something larger, more basic at stake.

"It's not just the ski and winter industry — it's where are we going to get a drink of water in the year 2100 and that is a hell of a lot scarier. It is so much bigger than that. And it's global."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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