Australian Alps snow depth history – 78 years of noisy data but little long term trend

A reader asked me if I had any historic snow depth data for Australia and drew my attention to Chiefios blog.
There is a Snowy Hydro webpage with some annual snow depth charts and I have used those charts from Spencers Creek to build a maximum depth time series.
I also have a 1990 report – “The South East Australian Alpine Climate Study” – by CSIRO, University of Melbourne and Alpine Resorts Commission. That has a graphic on page 19, Fig 2.4 Annual maximum snow depth (water equivalent in cm) for Rocky Valley Snow Pole Line 1935 – 1989.
I have digitised those data and let Excel plot the two time series below.

As usual the data do not support the normal media predictions that the ski industry is doomed. We know the Australian ski-fields do not have great heights of mountains above them – the pioneers worked that out – no news there.
But the data does not show any sign that “Global Warming” is wiping out the Australian ski resorts.

6 thoughts on “Australian Alps snow depth history – 78 years of noisy data but little long term trend”

  1. I tried to find, without success, data on snowfall as opposed to snow cover or depth. The reason being to look for an aerosol and BC/solar insolation effect (the 2 should diverge if such an effect exists). Many people including me, think this is the main reason for the Arctic – Antarctic sea ice divergence.

  2. Cloud cover must be an important factor as it is the source of snow and shade. The Chacaltaya Glacier of Bolivia faded away due to a lack of replacement snow tho’ Al Gore used it as an an example of global warming which in this case was quite wrong because local thermometers show no significant warming at 16,000ft.
    On Australia’s Main Range there is a big difference between a sunny September day and a cloudy one. The intense sunlight causes rapid melting.
    Ed note: If you make a time chart of South East Australian winter rainfall anomaly here – you see the increase in 1950 – possible to make a case that broadly the snow depth chart follows winter precip. Of course with increased rain there should be more cloud anyway.

  3. Hmmm, I like what you’ve done there with that graph.
    I bet when you plot the average of all of that data (incorporating both lines), you get a straight line right? Implying no worsening trend.
    Might be worth mentioning that the two locations presented are at different elevations. Rocky valley at 1650m and Spencer at 1820m.
    So looking at the data presented, you follow a downward trending Rocky Valley, then try to conceal that by throwing in Spencer (which is higher elevation and greater snow depth) data to make it a little “noisy”.
    Dear oh dear….

  4. There is a downward trend in the Spencers Creek Data, but hard to see in the noise. For example take a look at the average peak snow depth for each decade since 1956 :
    1956 – 1965 = 226cm
    1966 – 1975 = 208cm
    1976 – 1985 = 194cm
    1986 – 1995 = 203cm
    1996 – 2005 = 190cm
    2006 – 2015 = 164cm

    I have also observed a similar downward trend in data from Mt Buller too over the same period. To be continued…

  5. Hi Warwick,

    Have you run a linear regression on your excel plot?
    I can see from the data you’ve presented, despite the noise, that there will be a decreasing trend for both data sets. You could confirm this for yourself by simply adding a trendline in excel for each data set.

    If you fail to find this, you may need to look at your own methodology for errors, as there are peer-reviewed publications that have sadly demonstrated a significant decrease in snow depth using the same data as you.

    Green’s 2010 article ‘Alpine Taxa Exhibit Differing Responses to Climate Warming in the Snowy Mountains of Australia’ in the Journal of Mountain Science is a good place to start.

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