In northern hemisphere, it's too warm for winter
As autumn ends, pollen's up and snow skiing is down
Monday, December 04, 2006
BY ALEXANDRA ZAWADIL
VIENNA, Austria -- Flowers are blooming on the slopes of Alpine ski
resorts and bears are having trouble hibernating in Siberia amid a
late start to winter that may be a portent of global warming.
Rare December pollen is troubling asthma sufferers as far north as
Scandinavia, sales of winter clothing are down and Santa Claus is
having to reassure children his sleigh will take off on Christmas Eve,
snow or no snow.
From Ottawa to Moscow, temperatures have been way above average at
the start of the winter in the northern hemisphere -- with exceptions
including a rare snowstorm in Dallas, Texas.
Like many places, Austria has had the mildest autumn since records
began and many ski resorts have delayed the season's start. Snow
cannons are idling on green slopes that would usually be snow- covered
ski runs, shrinking the billion-dollar winter business.
"The mountain peaks are shining white -- but not white enough that we
can expect skiers to go there," said Martin Ebster, tourism director
of St. Anton in the Arlberg ski resort, which postponed the season
start to next weekend.
Meteorologists have recorded the azure trumpet-shaped Alpine gentian
flower as high as 3,609 feet in the Austrian Alps, and the vernal
forsythia in some valleys.
Yet even though glaciers are re ceding and snows are getting less
predictable, all is not gloom for the resorts.
At Austria's Ischgl, which relies heavily on nightlife and counted
Paris Hilton and rock star Pink among visitors last season, 25 percent
of ski runs are open and bars are crowded.
And the Soelden resort, where the first ski race of the World Cup
season had to be canceled in October, now has enough snow to step in
for France's Val d'Isere and Swiss St. Moritz, which may have to scrap
next weekend's races.
The Swiss Retail association said the warmth contributed to a 3.4
percent year-on-year fall in September sales of clothes and shoes
because of low sales of winter clothing.