Alps warming up

No snow in Alps

A ski chairlift idle in sunny Kitzbühel, Austria. A new study says the Alps are now the warmest they have been in 1,250 years.

How balmy has it been in the Alps these last few months, asks the New York Times?

At the bottom of the Hahnenkamm, the famously treacherous downhill course in this Austrian ski resort, the slope peters out into a grassy field. And it’s just 10 days before Christmas.

Snow cannons are showering clouds of white crystals over the slopes, but by midmorning each day, the machines have to be turned off because the mercury has risen too far for the fake snow to stick.

“Of course I’m nervous about the snow, but what am I supposed to do?” said Signe Kramheller-Reisch, as she walked in a field outside her family’s hotel, wearing suede shoes and a resigned expression.

“We have classic winters and we have nonclassic winters.”

This season is certainly shaping up as a nonclassic, but it may be a milestone of another kind. The record warmth — in some places autumn temperatures were three degrees Celsius above average — has brought home the profound threat of climate change to Europe’s ski industry.

If venturing outdoors without a jacket is not enough evidence, there are two new studies — one that says the Alps are the warmest they have been in 1,250 years and another that predicts that an increase of a few more degrees would leave most Alpine resorts with too little  snow to survive.