The consistency of snow has changed over the last twenty years. Observations at the Abisko Scientific Research Station in northern Sweden show that today’s snow contains more ice than before. This has created problems for reindeer owners, among others.
Alf Johansen, reindeer herder in Finnmark in north Norway is forced to feed his reindeer more often now to survive the winter. He points to two leading causes: stronger winds that create hard-packed snowdrifts which destroy the grazing land and mild periods in winter.
“Periods of mild temperatures combined with frost create ice. We know what that means. The reindeer will not graze,” Johansen says.
The consistency of snow has been measured at the Abisko Scientific Research Station since the 1960s. Researchers at Uppsala University have analysed the material and the results show that the amount of ice in the snow has increased from five to ten per cent.
“There are more layers of ice in the snow and we see in particular that the ice on the ground surface has increased considerably,” remarks Cecilia Johansson, meteorologist at Uppsala University.
The Uppsala scientists believe that this is because the average annual temperature has increased. “Winter temperatures are rising and this enables ice layers to form in the snow,” explains Cecilia Johansson.
For reindeer herder Alf Johansen this is disastrous. “Ice forms on the ground in periods with a milder temperature and this causes the reindeer to stop grazing.”