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Rocky start to Aussie ski season

Ben Domensino, Thursday June 18, 2020 - 13:42 EST

COVID-19 restrictions have seen the start of this year's Australian ski season pushed back by around two and a half weeks at most resorts. But while this could have given the slopes more time to accumulate snow as we moved deeper into winter, snowfalls have been few and far between this month.

A persistence of high pressure and an associated lack of cold fronts has limited the amount of snow-bearing systems over southeastern Australia in recent weeks.

The natural snow depth at Spencers Creek, which sits roughly 1,830m above sea level between Perisher and Thredbo, was just 11.6cm on Thursday. This is much lower than 37.1cm on the same date last year and 76.4cm the year before that.

Image: Natural snow depths at Spencers Creek in 2018 and 2020. Source: Snowy Hydro

The reality of the snow-starved June is even more evident further down the mountain. There is currently no snow at Deep Creek (1,620m elevation) and Three Mile Dam (1,460m elevation), according to data collected by Snowy Hydro on Thursday.

Image: Patchy snow near the Great Alpine Road in Victoria earlier this month. Source: @ve.drone / Instagram

Image: Some of this season's early snowcover at Mount Hotham, taken earlier this month. Source: @ve.drone / Instagram

A cold front will pass over southeastern Australia this weekend, bringing a burst of cold air and some much-needed snow. Unfortunately, this system will only bring light snow to the alps through the weekend and the snow that does fall will face rising temperatures and rain early next week, particularly on the lower slopes of the alps.

One of the reasons we have seen such little snow during June has been a persistent positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). When the SAM is positive, cold fronts contract towards Antarctica, which brings less rain and snow to parts of southern Australia.

The SAM is difficult to predict very far ahead. However, forecast models suggest that the positive phase that has underpinned the snowless June could break down by the start of July. Hopefully this means we are in for some better snow next month.

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