Effects of Climate Change on the Seasonality of Weather for Tourism in Alaska
Keywords: climate change, tourism, climate impacts, seasonality, climate index
AbstractThis study presents a method to identify and categorize seasonal patterns of weather conducive to specific tourism activities, using a tourism climate index based on hourly weather data. We examined changes in seasonal weather patterns in recent decades (1942–2005) at two Alaska destinations, King Salmon and Anchorage. The results indicate that climate warming has had both positive and negative effects on opportunities for tourism. The overall weather conditions for sightseeing in King Salmon have improved significantly with a lengthening of the season, which now starts 10 days earlier than in the 1940s. Conversely, weather conditions for skiing in Anchorage have deteriorated, primarily because weather suitable for skiing now ends about nine days earlier than in the 1940s. Future climate change (i.e., continued warming) is very likely to extend the sightseeing season at King Salmon, but is less likely to improve the quality of the peak season. At the same time, though warming is likely to shorten the total time for skiing each year at Anchorage, it is also likely to improve the quality of the winter season and increase the frequency of years when skiing quality peaks in mid-winter. For both activities, changes of spring temperature will have the greatest impact on tourism weather. Tourism indices such as the one presented here can be tailored to the requirements of specific tourist activities, providing an opportunity for improved tourism planning and decision making.