In 1942, Bogus Basin Ski Resort opened for the first time and began it’s long career as a cornerstone of Treasure Valley life. For over 75 years, residents of Boise and beyond have climbed the winding road for days of fun and thrills on the slopes. The lights of the resort can be seen across the Treasure Valley, and they are a sure sign that winter has arrived.
But in recent years, those lights have come on for less and less time.
The ski season at Bogus Basin has been getting shorter over the past thirty years. While individual years might have a longer season, the general trend has been a decline in the average length of the ski season and the total snowfall at Bogus Basin. In 1980, you could expect an average ski season to last 120 nights; by 2014, the average season only lasted 85.
This decline is the result of several factors: snow comes later in the year, winter rain is increasingly common, and spring melting begins earlier. But these disruptions all stem from the same root: climate change, not just on a global scale but here in our own backyard. And the effects are being felt down here in the Treasure Valley as well.
The Big Picture
The Earth’s surface temperature is rapidly increasing (1). The impacts of this sudden change are being felt all over the world, including here in the Pacific Northwest. In recent years, people have experienced increased heat, drought, wildfires, and wildfire smoke (2).
Temperatures across the Pacific Northwest have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. Looking to the future, under both high and low emissions scenarios, temperatures will continue to rise, but how much they rise will depend on the actions we take today (2).
What’s the Cause?
There is broad consensus among climate scientists that human activities, including deforestation, land-use change, and greenhouse gas emissions by combustion of fossil fuels, are directly related to the observed increase in temperatures globally and locally (3). Climatologists around the world also agree that the increase in weather hazards and climate events will continue unless anthropogenic emissions are aggressively reduced in a sustained way (4).
What to Expect
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
Global climate is composed of countless local climates. As the global average temperature increases, the temperature of local climates may also increase. This will have different impacts in different areas. So what changes can we expect in Idaho?
Based on analysis from NOAA, the overall picture is grim. Warmer winters mean shrinking snowpacks, the main source of Idaho’s water. Warmer summers mean more intense droughts, and more of them more often. In these conditions, it will be more likely that rainfall will trigger mudslides and floods (5).
Projected Impacts on Current Hazards:
Smoke: A warming atmosphere means more frequent wildfires, which means more smoke pollution. Even if the fire is outside of Idaho, seasonal winds can blow smoke into the Treasure Valley. This results in a drop in air quality, affecting outdoor recreation, local tourism, and public health. High levels of smoke pollution also create an uptick in emergency room visits, placing a burden on hospitals (8).
From 2021-2050, climatologists predict that major Idaho watersheds, including the Boise River Valley and the Big Wood Basin, will see higher ambient temperatures and lower soil moisture levels. This will result in increased occurrence of drought conditions, with negative impacts to agricultural output and water security. These conditions will also increase the risk, occurrence, and severity of wildfires, particularly in Southern Idaho (9).
In summary: Idaho summers will be hotter, drier, and more dangerous than they are already.