“Connecting Climate Change to a Community: Impacts of Warming Winters on Ice Climbing in the Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire”
Over the past 100 years, winters in New England have been losing their grip. Temperatures have warmed and extreme cold has become less frequent. Snowpack has responded in kind, shrinking in both areal coverage and depth. Across the northeastern United States, future winter climate projections portray additional warming and snow loss that will impact ecosystems and society. In this talk, I will present a case study on how the changes we’ve seen in winter impact the tightly knit ice climbing guide community in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire. We connected a treasured photo archive of ice conditions at a popular ice climbing route to the weather records recorded at Pinkham Notch, NH, and projected future climate and climbing conditions to 2100. The photographer, a local legend in the community, captured the waxing and waning of ice climbing conditions throughout twenty climbing seasons, dating back to the winter of 2001. Through a survey and focus group, we heard from the local guides whose livelihoods depend on the cold and what they anticipate for the future. With support from the American Alpine Club, the research study was documented in a short film Freeze//Thaw, which we’llscreen and discuss in the context of approaches to science communication and advocacy.