Master´s thesis defense by Oliver Gerald Schrot – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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Master´s thesis defense by Oliver Gerald Schrot

Title: Winter tourism in a changing climate – the case of Western Greenland in the RCP 8.5 scenario

Tourism recently has been designated to be a future key industry of Greenland being able to promote sustainable development. At the same time, anthropological enforced climate change in the Arctic in general and in coastal areas of Western Greenland is expected to be particularly intense causing impacts on natural and human systems throughout the 21st century. This implies a certain risk of Western Greenland’s winter tourism to climate change since snow is the base of main winter recreational activities as well as highly sensitive to warming. Yet no study has identified how vulnerable Western Greenland’s winter tourism responds to high-emission climate change. To close the existing research gap, this thesis uses the regional climate model HIRHAM5 of the DMI (Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen) driven by the IPCC’s RCP 8.5 forcing to assess climatic impacts on resort skiing, ski-touring, heli-skiing, cross-country skiing, dogsledding and snowmobiling. In detail, HIRHAM 5 has been downscaled at the horizontal resolution of 5.5 km for two time slice runs 2031-2050 and 2081-2100 (reference period 1991-2010) to calculate highly resolved annual and winter projections of temperature, precipitation, rainfall fraction, snow cover season length, snowfall and number of days with a snow cover >20cm for the winter tourism destinations Nuuk, Ilulissat, Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq. Model robustness is assessed using the CMIP5 ensemble and the unpublished approach of Olesen et al. (s.a.). Climate data provide strong evidence of increasing mean annual temperature (+1.04°C - +4.87°C) and precipitation (+20% - +30%) in Western Greenland until 2100, relative to 1991-2010. Snowfall (e.g. -42% in Nuuk, relative to 1991-2010) and the length of the snow cover season (between -20% & -50%, relative to 1991-2010) are found to decrease on the long run leading to high vulnerability of winter tourism to warming. Resort skiing and cross-country skiing are assessed to be strongly affected due to snow marginality and more winter rainfall reducing visitor enjoyment. Ski-touring and heli-skiing show less vulnerability due to a high adaption capacity (e.g. translocation to snow-safe destinations). Dog-sledding and snowmobiling are expected to suffer from reduced snow cover thickness as well. Hence, in the light of climate change Greenlandic tourism providers are expected to face increased operational stress throughout the 21st century, while certain aspects of the current winter tourism conflict with the axiom of sustainability.