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Snow cover drop predicted for national park

By Lorna Thompson

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THE Cairngorms National Park Authority is to look at ways it can help tackle the climate emergency as a new study predicts a dramatic drop in snow cover from 2030.

Biodiversity loss, disruption to water supplies and flooding are just some of the global challenges that are likely to be caused by rising temperatures – and the Cairngorms National Park is not immune.

But according to a paper going before the CNPA board this Friday, December 6, the park is "well placed" to help tackle the climate emergency through nature-based solutions.

A study has also been published today, December 2, looking at temperature trends and snow cover in the park. It models possible future changes to snow cover caused by climate change on the sub-Arctic high mountains of the Cairngorms.

CNPA chief executive Grant Moir will present the paper – Net Zero with Nature – outlining where the park and authority should focus efforts to help meet the Scottish Government’s 2045 net zero greenhouse gas emissions target. Board members will also consider the Snow Cover and Climate Change in the Cairngorms National Park report.

It suggests that in the next 10 years patterns may remain the same as the previous 10 years – but from 2030 onwards there is likely to be a substantial decline in the number of days of snow cover.

The study was carried out by researchers at the James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College, using historic temperature and precipitation data going back 100 years with observed snow cover days from 1969-2005 to identify how temperature affects snow. They then used data modelling and climate projections from the Met Office to identify some possible future trends for snow cover in the national park.

Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms National Park.
Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms National Park.

Mr Moir said: "It is crucial that the assessment of snow cover is considered as part of the wider work on climate change with implications for hydrology, biodiversity as well as the local economy.

"There is much good work already being done in the park, from woodland expansion and peatland restoration, to new infrastructure for active travel and renewable energy development, but this needs to be scaled up to help tackle the climate emergency.

"As well as looking at what can be done with partners across the park, we are taking our corporate responsibilities very seriously with various changes to how we operate, such as switching to more environmentally-friendly vehicles and other changes to internal policies which will promote a reduction in emissions."

Global warming caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions is impacting on snow cover as well as biodiversity in mountain areas across the world. While there have been significant snow events in recent years, the overall trend is declining snow cover, which is predicted to continue and accelerate in future.

Decreases in snow cover will have important consequences for species composition and distribution, potentially resulting in biodiversity loss. The amount and temperature of ground water, streams and rivers, and reduced river flows in winter will impact local water supplies and there is the potential for increased flooding due to rapid snow melt.

Mr Moir added: "Tackling climate change is set to be at the core of our next National Park Partnership Plan."

Visit www.cairngorms.co.uk for more information. The CNPA will host a Climate Conference in Aviemore on March 9. Details will be available in the new year.

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