Nature Climate Change Article: Recent waning snowpack in the Alps is unprecedented in the last six centuries
Snow cover in high-latitude and high-altitude regions has strong effects on the Earth’s climate, environmental processes and socio-economic activities. Over the last 50 years, the Alps experienced a 5.6% reduction per decade in snow cover duration, which already affects a region where economy and culture revolve, to a large extent, around winter. Here we present evidence from 572 ring-width series extracted from a prostrate shrub (Juniperus communis L.) growing at high elevation in the Val Ventina, Italy. These ring-width records show that the duration of current snowpack cover is 36 days shorter than the long-term mean, a decline that is unprecedented over the last six centuries. These findings highlight the urgent need to develop adaptation strategies for some of the most sensitive environmental and socio-economic sectors in this region.