Monday, February 20, 2017

Yes, the record warmth is great...unless you need cold-weather tourism

Hey, not that I’m going to complain about 60-degree days and being able to get in some Terrace time in February. It was awesome to be out and about this early in the year, and we got to see wacky scenes like this one all around southern Wisconsin.

but the tourist industry in Hayward likely isn’t as pleased about the recent warmup.
In light of the recent above average temperatures, along with continued warm weather conditions and rain forecast for today, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) has announced that an adjustment to the overall race course for Birkie Week events is required.

After this weekend’s warm weather, Lake Hayward is no longer a viable option for race week. As part of a normal race, skiers would ski across Lake Hayward before entering downtown Hayward. Without Lake Hayward, there is no longer a possibility of finishing races in downtown Hayward. Given this decision, the International Bridge that normally spans Highway 63, will not be installed for Birkie week events this year. While snow is in the forecast for later this week, a downtown finish is no longer a feasible option for 2017 events.

As always, the safety of participants is first and foremost in mind for the entire ABSF staff and board, followed by their goal of creating the best possible participant experience for all. Both things are weighed and considered with each and every decision the ABSF makes.

Won't look like this for Birke 2017

And as the Climate Wisconsin site notes, these type of weather-related changes may become more common with the Berkie in coming years.
According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison between 1950 and 2006 the Sawyer County area winter average temperature has warmed around 3 to 4.5 °F. They also found: a 4.5 °F increase in winter average daily low temperatures, a 4-10% reduction in the number of days with a high temperature below 20 °F, and a 15 to 18% reduction in the number of days with nighttime low’s below 0 °F. Interestingly, spring is coming earlier by 3 to 9 days. In general, Sawyer County has seen warmer winters, with higher high and even higher low temperatures.

Researchers have also downscaled global climate models using local historical climate data to generate fine-scale climate change predictions state wide. For Sawyer County they project that from 1980 to 2055 there will be: 21 fewer nights below 0 °F, fewer average annual freezing days, 16 to 18 fewer days with high temperatures below 20 °F, and 7.5 to 10 days earlier onset of spring. Moreover, the average annual winter temperature is projected to increase 9 °F, and the daily high and daily low are also expected to increase 6.3 and 9.0 °F, respectively. Additionally, for Ashland, WI, northeast of Hayward, researchers projected a decrease in the probability of frozen precipitation (e.g. snow, sleet), especially early and late in the winter. Since Ashland is slightly buffered from climate change by Lake Superior we can expect an even greater reduction in the probability of frozen precipitation for the Hayward area, which is further inland. Furthermore, a group of researchers from the Universities of Wisconsin and Iowa project that by the mid 21st century there will be a 25 to 40 cm reduction in snowfall and a 5 to 20 cm reduction in mean snow depth (on March 15th) for Sawyer County. In summary, by 2055, warmer winters, with warmer nights, a lower probability of snow fall, shallower snow pack, less snow cover, and an earlier onset of spring are expected. Considering the fact that the Birkie trail covers over 50 km of ground we can expect to see more adaptations to the event as warmer winter temperatures and less snow create unsafe race conditions.
With snow cover pretty much gone from most parts of Northern Wisconsin, I gotta wonder if that cut into festivities and snowmobiling activities over the Presidents’ Day weekend (especially when you consider everyone in Illinois is off today). Now, maybe that was offset statewide by all of us that wanted to get out and take advantage of the record warmth in recent days (I know campus and downtown Madison was jumping over the weekend), but I’m going to be intrigued to see what sales tax collections look like up North for these winter months, especially if there is a limited or canceled Birke to go along with no ice caves on the Apostle Islands this year.

But hey, you folks in the 715 wouldn’t need to worry about climate change reducing outdoor winter activities into something that's increasingly common, would ya? Nah, that’s just something us latte-sipping elitsts in Madison only worry about. So you keep on voting for Koch-owned climate deniers like Sean Duffy and Tom Tiffany, and don't whine to me when people stop coming up your way.

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