Shoveling into the wind: Blizzards and global warming

Update:  Feb 14 2010:  Dana Milbank of the Washington Post provides his perspective: (emphasis mine)

As a scientific proposition, claiming that heavy snow in the mid-Atlantic debunks global warming theory is about as valid as claiming that the existence of John Edwards debunks the theory of evolution. In fact, warming theory suggests that you’d see trends toward heavier snows, because warmer air carries more moisture. This latest snowfall, though, is more likely the result of a strong El Niño cycle that has parked the jet stream right over the mid-Atlantic states.

Still, there’s some rough justice in the conservatives’ cheap shots. In Washington’s blizzards, the greens were hoist by their own petard.

For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles and disease. It’s not that Gore is wrong about these things. The problem is that his storm stories have conditioned people to expect an endless worldwide heat wave, when in fact the changes so far are subtle.

Other environmentalists have undermined the cause with claims bordering on the outlandish; they’ve blamed global warming for shrinking sheep in Scotland, more shark and cougar attacks, genetic changes in squirrels, an increase in kidney stones and even the crash of Air France Flight 447. When climate activists make the dubious claim, as a Canadian environmental group did, that global warming is to blame for the lack of snow at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, then they invite similarly specious conclusions about Washington’s snow…

Al Gore, for one, seems to realize it’s time for a new tactic. New TV ads released during last week’s blizzards by Gore’s climate advocacy group say nothing about climate science. They show workers asking their senators for more jobs from clean energy.

Climate change questions on everyone’s mind:  Can the record snowfalls tallied in the winter of 2009-2010 be attributed to global warming?  Will this type of winter weather be more or less frequent in the future under a global warming scenario?  What is the evidence for and against — and what is the certainty of  the conclusions reached?

Among the many suggestions that the IPCC be cherished, tweaked, or scrapped by Nature in a recent opinion piece by 5-climatologists, one was by John Christy who proposed a Wikipedia-style assessment process or report.  Without providing any substantial details likely due to length restrictions, one has to take the current Wikipedia model and figure out how a complicated scientific assessment would be carried out in the public domain.  Well, why not give it a whirl here and see if/how a consensus can be built from scratch using all the available information and expertise already in the public domain?  Success is clearly not guaranteed and failure may actually provide some insight into the difficulties associated with Christy’s proposal.

So, here is the task for anyone that wants to participate:  do an audit of the winter of 2009-2010 including the blizzards over the United States and put it in context with the current understanding associated with global warming.  Tasks will include autopsying the weather/climate conditions responsible for the snow (or lackthereof) over the USA (or subregions), expertly assessing the peer-reviewed (or “not yet” or “grey”) literature on changes in winter cyclone behavior, and developing a consensus conclusion.  It would also be grand if a certainty could be put on that conclusion.  Obviously there are plenty of starting points with the IPCC, other US climate assessments, the mainstream media, blogs, newspapers and magazines.  Thus, the current spectrum of expertise on the topic ranges from climate scientists, meteorologists, television personalities, journalists, all the way to bloggers in their basement.  Seemingly, the various actors have different agendas at work.

If this task is set up like a court of law in which both sides are allowed to present evidence, then some modicum of balance should be achieved, and the outcome will not be predetermined.  One should not assume immediately that the current weather/climate conditions are inconsistent with what would be expected in the future under UN IPCC climate change scenarios, and I caution all to have an open mind.   The comment process here on WordPress, which necessarily nests conversations, is pretty good for accumulating knowledge on specific subtopics assuming clutter and chatter is kept to a minimum.

Even if such a Wiki-IPCC exists, it is still incumbent upon the consumer of the information to digest it and make policy recommendations, which is obviously well beyond what is being attempted here.  The shelf-life for such an experiment is pretty short (couple days) as blogs require continued sustenance to keep moving along.

The blizzards of winter 2009-2010 have been truly historic in terms of total snowfall across a large swathe of the Middle Atlantic and New England.  A few cities and their tallies:  NWS record report.

Philadelphia: “The National Weather Service reported that 14 inches of snow had fallen at Philadelphia International Airport by 7 last night. On top of the 28.5 inches recorded Friday and Saturday, that meant the winter of 2009-10 had surpassed by nearly 5 inches the 65.5-inch total set 14 years ago.”

Washington DC and Baltimore:  “As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the snowfall total for the season in Washington had surpassed the 54.4-inch record set in 1899, and it rose to 55.6 inches by 4 p.m. It was even higher farther from the city, reaching seasonal totals of 72 inches in Baltimore and at Dulles International Airport.”

Vancouver, British Columbia: “Up at Whistler an unprecedented 9.88 metres (32.4 feet) of snow is on the ground, to the delight of Olympics organizers. The first alpine athletes started their training on designated training runs on February 5 and are scheduled to ski on the Olympic courses Wednesday.”

Deep snow at Whistler Blackcomb is not unusual, but reaching the average annual snowfall of 10.13 metres (33 feet) this early in the year is unique. Since snow reporting began in the 1979/80 season, this is the first time that Whistler Blackcomb has received this much snow by the end of January.

While the slopes at Whistler Mountain, where the Alpine and Nordic events will be held, are covered with deep snow, the lower elevation Cypress Mountain venues are not.  Snow is being trucked in and flown in to Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver to get the Olympic venue ready for the first event – the women’s moguls.

In an effort go get started, let’s see what various media outlets are saying about the linkages between global warming and the recent blizzards.  Do they mention El Nino?  Do they have the prerequisite equivocation that “no one weather event can be attributed to global warming” and “weather is not climate” except when it is?  Unfortunately this becomes a sobering task in judging the accuracy of science reporting by journalists who must rely on the experts whom they interview.  Without naming names, some do a better job than others.

New York Times — Feb 11, 2010 Climate Fight Is Heating Up in Deep Freeze

Skeptics of global warming are using the record-setting snows to mock those who warn of dangerous human-driven climate change — this looks more like global cooling, they taunt.

Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events.

But some independent climate experts say the blizzards in the Northeast no more prove that the planet is cooling than the lack of snow in Vancouver or the downpours in Southern California prove that it is warming.

But climate scientists say that no single episode of severe weather can be blamed for global climate trends while noting evidence that such events will probably become more frequent as global temperatures rise.

Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who writes on the Weather Underground blog, said that the recent snows do not, by themselves, demonstrate anything about the long-term trajectory of the planet. Climate is, by definition, a measure of decades and centuries, not months or years.

But Dr. Masters also said that government and academic studies had consistently predicted an increasing frequency of just these kinds of record-setting storms because warmer air carries more moisture.

Time Magazine / CNN — Feb 10, 2010 Snowstorm:  East Coast Blizzard Tied to Climate Change (Another Blizzard:  What Happened to Global Warming?)

Brace yourselves now — this may be a case of politicians twisting the facts. There is some evidence that climate change could in fact make such massive snowstorms more common, even as the world continues to warm. As the meteorologist Jeff Masters points out in his excellent blog at Weather Underground, the two major storms that hit Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., this winter — in December and during the first weekend of February — are already among the 10 heaviest snowfalls those cities have ever recorded. The chance of that happening in the same winter is incredibly unlikely.

A federal government report issued last year, intended to be the authoritative statement of known climate trends in the United States, pointed to the likelihood of more frequent snowstorms in the Northeast and less frequent snow in the South and Southeast as a result of long-term temperature and precipitation patterns. The Climate Impacts report, from the multiagency United States Global Change Research Program, also projected more intense drought in the Southwest and more powerful Gulf Coast hurricanes because of warming.

In other words, if the government scientists are correct, look for more snow.

This is one of the few technical discussions of the linkage between global warming and winter weather during the past week.  It is well worth quoting large sections for reference sake.
There are two requirements for a record snow storm:  1) A near-record amount of moisture in the air (or a very slow moving storm). 2) Temperatures cold enough for snow….According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the globe warmed 0.74°C (1.3°F) over the past 100 years. There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming, with plenty of opportunities for snow. The more difficult ingredient for producing a record snowstorm is the requirement of near-record levels of moisture. Global warming theory predicts that global precipitation will increase, and that heavy precipitation events–the ones most likely to cause flash flooding–will also increase. This occurs because as the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases, resulting in more water vapor in the air. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, water vapor in the global atmosphere has increased by about 5% over the 20th century, and 4% since 1970. This extra moisture in the air will tend to produce heavier snowstorms, assuming it is cold enough to snow. Groisman et al. (2004) found a 14% increase in heavy (top 5%) and 20% increase in very heavy (top 1%) precipitation events in the U.S. over the past 100 years, though mainly in spring and summer. However, the authors did find a significant increase in winter heavy precipitation events have occurred in the Northeast U.S. This was echoed by Changnon et al. (2006), who found, “The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity.”
In 2009, the USGCRP put out its excellent U.S. Climate Impacts Report, summarizing the observed and forecast impacts of climate change on the U.S. The report’s main conclusion about cold season storms was “ Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent”. The report’s more detailed analysis: “Large-scale storm systems are the dominant weather phenomenon during the cold season in the United States. Although the analysis of these storms is complicated by a relatively short length of most observational records and by the highly variable nature of strong storms, some clear patterns have emerged (Kunkel et al., 2008).
Of course, both climate change contrarians and climate change scientists agree that no single weather event can be blamed on climate change. However, one can “load the dice” in favor of events that used to be rare–or unheard of–if the climate is changing to a new state. It is quite possible that the dice have been loaded in favor of more intense Nor’easters for the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, thanks to the higher levels of moisture present in the air due to warmer global temperatures. It’s worth mentioning that heavy snow storms should be getting increasingly rare for the extreme southern portion of the U.S. in coming decades. There’s almost always high amounts of moisture available for a potential heavy snow in the South–just not enough cold air. With freezing temperatures expected to decrease and the jet stream and associated storm track expected to move northward, the extreme southern portion of the U.S. should see a reduction in both heavy and ordinary snow storms in the coming decades.
Bill Nye “The Science Guy” — MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show
Nye’s analysis conflates global warming with El Nino in a confusing way and invokes energy, turbulence thinking.
“[T]here’s more energy in the atmosphere and this is stirring things up,” Nye said. “If you want to get serious about it, these guys claiming that the snow in Washington disproves climate change are almost unpatriotic. It’s really, they’re denying science. So they’re very happy to have the weather forecast be accurate within a few hours, but they’re displeased or un-enchanted by predictions of the world getting warmer. It’s really, it shakes me up.”
“Well, the world, overall — the world’s getting warmer,” Nye said. “If you like – these phenomenon, by the way, this week, are just generally a result of El Niño, where the Pacific Ocean surface gets a little warmer and this affects the weather in North America like crazy and this is very well-documented, and you can go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web sites and you can look at this data. The sea surface is warmer, putting more energy in the atmosphere, and making things more turbulent.”

Climate Progress — Joe Romm reporting on MSNBC’s explanation by Dylan Ratigan

As Ratigan explains:

Here’s the problem – these ‘snowpocalypses’ that have been going through DC and other extreme weather events are precisely what climate scientists have been predicting, fearing and anticipating because of global warming.

Why is that? The thinking that warmer air temperatures on the earth, a higher air temperature, has a greater capacity to hold moisture at any temperature.  And then as winter comes in, that warm air cools full of water, and you get heavier precipitation on a more regular basis. In fact, you could argue these storms are not evidence of a lack of global warming, but are evidence of global warming – thus the 26 inches of snowfall in the DC area and the second giant storm this year.

I [Romm] tend to prefer “are consistent with human-caused global warming,” in place of the highlighted phrase, but the words “you could argue” gives Ratigan the necessary caveat for his statement.

Please provide links and quotes for analysis by scientists that I may have missed.  Keep editorial comments to a minimum and reserve judgment on the issue until a “consensus” is reached.  Consider this an opportunity to participate in your own IPCC.


  1. Henry chance
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

    For several years, our governing officials claim snow and winter precipitation is gone.
    Here are a few short sample speeches. Of course the budgets are huge to support research before these congressional hearings.

    “we must act now”

  2. HectorMaletta
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

    1. According to findings reported in AR4 and related literature, Global Warming may not entail any significant change in El Niño cycles: neither more frequency nor more amplitude, nor a “permanent El Niño” condition. An attempt by Guilyardi et al to produce such effects under extreme CO2 concentration (one order of magnitud higher, i.e. more than 10 times pre-industrial levels) failed to produce anything. The IPCC confess to ignorance or total uncertainty about this issue.

    2. Knutson et al have run models indicating a decreasing trend in the frequency and average intensity of tropical hurricanes, especially Caribbean, although the number of events with higher wind speed will somewhat increase. Pielke has shown there is no tendency to increasing intensity of cyclones along the 20th century, if adequately measured.

    3. Total area with snow cover in winter is expected to decrease with global warming, as the Arctic and surrounding land areas are those with the strongest warming on Earth. There is actually some trend towards smaller snow-area in recent decades, but nothing definite (to my knowledge) about extreme events of cold and snow, except a general assertion about “increasing extremes” that is generally not well supported.

    I do not have the exact references at hand for the above citations but they may be easily retrieved. Will send them later if needed.

  3. Jerry
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

    Earlier this winter there were several articles about the conditions in the arctic region that were anticipated to bring unusually cold temperatures to the Northeastern US as well as Northern Europe. Some of these conditions were somewhat long term cyclic events and it seems, from memory, that a few had coincided in a way that is even more long term.
    To what extent have these conditions contributed to the current weather patterns? And to what extent do these conditions persist?

    • ryanm
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

      There has been a persistent negative Arctic Oscillation which has set up blocking patterns favorable for cold air to funnel into the eastern half of the USA. Here is a piece in the Abilene news

      He called this winter “remarkable,” citing a strong El Niño pattern affecting the southern part of the country, while the northern portions are dominated by a different phenomenon — something he said isn’t predictable on a seasonal time scale.

      That factor is arctic oscillation, he said, opposing atmospheric pressure patterns in northern-middle and high latitudes.

      According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, since the 1970s the oscillation has tended to stay in its “positive” phase, causing lower than normal arctic air pressure and higher than normal temperatures in much of the United States and northern Eurasia.

      But the factor has been “very negative” this winter, Halpert said.

      “We don’t know why — that’s really a research topic,” he said.

      But with the oscillation in its negative phase, “you’re going to see more cold weather, and it doesn’t matter if the climate is warming on longer time scales or not,” he said.

      • Jerry
        Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

        Thanks Ryan. And good luck with this project. So with a strong negative arctic oscillation one expects cold air and blocking patterns. Perhaps criterion 1b in Masters’ blog for record snow falls, very slow moving storms, and 2, cold air, are both met by the influence of the negative AO. Maybe no need for AGW after all, unless someone wants to take a shot at blaming the AO on AGW.

  4. Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

    You could give this project an indefinite time-frame by setting up your own wiki. I am currently using the MediaWiki open-source software that runs WikiPedia with a WAMP web server (both packages are available for free) to construct a full-blown Wikipedia-like wiki on my employer’s network for knowledge and product data management. All you need is a server and a little spare time. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could expand this project a little bit and use this technology to write your own counter-AR5.

    • MrCannuckistan
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:25 PM | Permalink

      This idea sounds great!!

      IMHO, it should only be open to scholars. Otherwise people that don’t understand the science would be injecting undue noise into the process. A simple, verifiable sign up process along with a brief bio page for each participant and away you go.

      As someone else mentioned, the process would need to be policed. Perhaps there could be a simple process put in place to afford fairness and balance through voting. The talk pages would definitely give us a look into the background discussions between scientists on both sides of the fence.


      • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

        Agreed. The current policies at Wikipedia would not be appropriate for such a task. The Wikipedia policies and guidelines may be found here and here. The articles at Wikipedia are explicitly intended to reflect the consensus of Wikipedia editors rather than express factual content:

        “But it’s true!” is not a sufficient reason to keep information on Wikipedia. (WP:TRUE)

        The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. (WP:V)

        …(more at WP:EDIT, WP:NPOV, and WP:CON). The Wikipedia “consensus” system works fine for topics where there is not a lot of ambiguity, but breaks down when applied to controversial topics, and we all know how the term “consensus” has been abused in the ongoing debate over AGW theory.

        Voting on the content of articles is expressly disallowed which (in my opinion) has given rise to a complex and nuanced social order where an editor’s influence in the consensus-building process is based not on quality of input but on his or her experience (i.e. number of edits, diversity of edits, quality of edits, past sanctions or lack thereof, et cetera) and membership in informal social groupings of editors who support one another during the consensus-building process.

        The due process provisions are also sometimes used to exclude AGW skeptics from the climate science articles (see the example here on the “Climategatekeeping: Wikipedia” thread). Such diversions would be utterly inappropriate for any respectable scientific inquiry.

        • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

          Re: Rich (Feb 11 15:12), Such a wiki possibly already exists, though still really in “alpha” state, to be given its character by future editors. Neutralpedia. It was set up nicely by CA reader Shen last December, starting with the Climategate emails. I found it early on and have attempted to begin to structure it in a way that can enable it to grow to reach its objectives, to “complement” Wikipedia, at least in Climate Science. What I believe is most needed is a wiki that can “do” science and audit it, to rebuild the Climate Science that has been usurped by Mann, Connolley, IPCC, etc.

          I’ve hesitated there, as much of my work so far still feels like back-of-envelope jottings when quality is needed, and I feel this wiki ought to be owned by the whole climate skeptics/ lukewarmers/ realists community. Hey, yes, community not consensus! But I have done an introductory article which I’ve also left with Jeff Id and he might publish any day. Go and have a look. Take up the torch! Improve our work! Yes, build up the IPCC alternative that’s needed.

        • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

          Sold! I’ll see you there. I’m afraid I know very little about the science, but I am technically inclined and familiar with the MediaWiki software so naturally I’d be delighted to help with site administration.

        • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 8:29 PM | Permalink

          So what’s the next step other than promotion? Invite people on both sides of the debate to sign up? Appoint neutral and unbiased moderators? Develop a dispute resolution method?


        • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 9:01 PM | Permalink

          Excellent suggestions all, but perhaps best addressed at the Neutralpedia community portal and its talk page rather than here. This far OT we’re likely to get snipped soon if we keep this up.

  5. Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 11:52 AM | Permalink

    I’m at work right now and don’t have the references, but I’ve read a few papers in recent months regarding the long-term effects of the orbital forcings, the sun’s barycentric motion, and lunar periodicities on the earth’s climate. There was also a 1,470 year cycle, but I can’t remember right now what it was called. I seem to recall that at least a few of these cycles should be creating cooling trends in the current time frame, especially the solar activity and sunspot cycles.

    I will repeat Jerry’s question with respect to astronomical cyclical forcings: To what extent have these cycles contributed to the current weather patterns?

    • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 4:01 PM | Permalink

      I remember now. The 1470-year cycles are called “Bond” events:

      Bond, G.; et al. (1997). “A Pervasive Millennial-Scale Cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and Glacial Climates”. Science 278 (5341): 1257–1266. doi:10.1126/science.278.5341.1257 (PDF)

      Excerpt from the abstract:

      During each of these episodes, cool, ice-bearing waters from north of Iceland were advected as far south as the latitude of Britain. At about the same times, the atmospheric circulation above Greenland changed abruptly. Pacings of the Holocene events and of abrupt climate shifts during the last glaciation are statistically the same; together, they make up a series of climate shifts with a cyclicity close to 1470 +/- 500 years.

      The most recent Bond cycle was approximately 1400 years ago, so we should be about due for another one. I’ll look up the other cycles when I get home this evening, if no one else beats me to it.

  6. BarryW
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 11:59 AM | Permalink

    Does anyone have a web site that has historical snowfall records for sites like Washington DC? I’d like to get it down to individual storms if I could. Lets see if there is a pattern WRT temps.

    DC storms to my knowledge are driven by storm track as much as anything else, since the worst ones tend to be costal storms. Snow storms from the midwest tend to peter out in the mountains and we don’t get that much. Lake effect snows in the upstate NY area from what I’ve read seem to be controlled by the freezing of the Great Lakes which shuts off the moisture.

    If moisture is the reason for the snow increase and that’s caused by the temperature rise, how does that fit in with the drought years in Texas and Georgia that have now been followed by torrential rains. It’s also snowing in DFW as I write this.

  7. Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM | Permalink

    Just an observation, but I think it worth mentioning: if I’m understanding how the forecasters have been analyzing the three big storms that have come through the region this Winter, it’s not a matter of more moisture becoming available because of warming, but that the storm tracks and blocking Highs have simply allowed the Nor’Easters to suck more moisture off of the ocean and throw it back over the states where it has been extremely cold. In other words, in past years, the Nor’Easters were still blowing through, but since the blocking High over Eastern Canada and the upper Western Atlantic (Canadian Maritimes?) was weaker (or non-existent), the storms wouldn’t slow down or stall. Less moisture==less snow.

    Now, if there is some sort of link between the massive amounts of cold air being pumped down into the Mid-Atlantic ahead of the storms and AGW, or AGW and the blocking Highs, then there’s certainly a discussion to be had. But I’m not getting it right now.

    My very non-scientific 2 cents.

  8. intelligert
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

    snow in winter? the world is up side down!

  9. Bob Koss
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    What about the two blizzards in two weeks in 1978. Were those caused by GW too?

  10. Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:18 PM | Permalink

    Ah.. my memory is failing me Ryan, but someplace in the report I recall a specific study about increasing lake effect snow, although these past storms could hardly be called lake effect. Still that prediction ( crap where the heck is it) had for me the kind of specificity I like to see. The generalized ” more severe weather events” is just too squishy for me.

    Ah.. any quick and dirty data on the corelation of el nino and blizzards.

    • BarryW
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:40 PM | Permalink

      Warmer lakes = less ice = more moisture = more lake effect snows.

      Believe me these aren’t lake effect snows, more like Cape Hatteras snows.

    • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:54 PM | Permalink

      Ah.. any quick and dirty data on the corelation of el nino and blizzards.

      Not at hand, but I know there is supposed to be a pretty strong correlation between the two. Also, the particular signature of this El Nino and subsequent East Coast blizzards is supposed to be strong. This came up late last Summer, as the El Nino was starting to percolate. The forecasters were suggesting that it would be kind of a fizzle. Apparently, that type of El Nino leads to very strong Nor’Easters.

      I don’t know where I’ve seen it, but the topic has come up more than once. WUWT might have something.

  11. windansea
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

    if global warming means more snow how come glaciers are receding? Glaciers are caused by snow yes?

    • Ray Boorman
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 10:22 PM | Permalink

      It is likely that glacier retreat is linked to reduced snowfalls years ago, probably decades, which reduced the amount (weight) of ice available to push the lower reaches downhill. Like any river, less precipitation, less flow. Glaciers are rather large, so there is no way they would respond to recent changes, unless of course, it could be shown that the temperature near their snout is now consistently above freezing, when it was not in the past, then maybe global warming is to blame.

  12. R Rodger
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

    The argument (more heat = more moisture = more snow) tends to breakdown in regions like the UK, which traditionally experiences relative warmth in winter, but is experiencing more snow this year. That equals more cold in my mind.

  13. johnh
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

    Seems ironic that the cold winter was forecast by at least 2 weather forecasters who are Skepical of AGW, and none of the AGW promoting weather forcasters did. Surely the test of the accuracy of a model is first making a prediction and then testing the result. Looking back after the event and saying the model is correct looks nonsense.

  14. Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

    Here’s Philip Mote talking about Global Warming reducing the amount of snowfall.


  15. M. Jeff
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:55 PM | Permalink

    Valuable additions to the lexicon of global warming? From the WSJ:

    “The storm has coughed up a host of nicknames—snowmageddon, snowpocalypse, tsnonami, snoverkill, snowoverit, snOMG.”

  16. Theo Goodwin
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    snip – I’ve asked people to stop using the term “warmist”. It causes people to editorialize too much.

    • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

      There were a couple of recent articles regarding stratospheric water vapor linked a few days ago on the “Climategate News and Links” thread here.

    • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

      I have been using the terms “pro-AGW” and “AGW proponent” in an effort to strike a neutral tone, but even this might be considered pejorative as they have generally stopped using the term “Global Warming” and have switched to “Climate Change”. What is the currently acceptable nomenclature?

      • LeRoy
        Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:28 PM | Permalink

        “Climate change” in winter; “Global Warming” in summer. Remember to when to change, just like setting your clocks forward in spring and back in the fall.

      • Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

        Not sure what the nomenclature du jour might be. But how about: Human Caused Catastrophic Climate Change (or Human Caused Climate Change Catastrophes) … either of which lends itself to HCCCC or HC4

      • Chris BC
        Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:30 PM | Permalink

        How about just snipping any over editorializing and not snipping terms you don’t like but are otherwise succinct and accurately identify one’s position?

        Is there a list of preferred terms somewhere here for reference?

  17. Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

    Check out Joseph D’Aleo’s excellent data based piece on NH snow cover at Should include it here with his permission.

  18. Tamara
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

    The Weather Underground article quotes Changnon et al 2006: “Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity.”
    The abstract for Changnon 2007 ( states:
    “when storms were very frequent in the Northeast, they were infrequent elsewhere, a result of spatial differences in storm-producing weather conditions over time. The time distribution of the nation’s 202 storms during 1949–2003 had a sizable downward trend, whereas the nation’s storm losses had a major upward trend for the 55-year period. This increase over time in losses, given the decrease in storm incidences, was a result of significant temporal increases in storm sizes and storm intensities. Increases in storm intensities were small in the northern sections of the nation, but doubled across the southern two-thirds of the nation”

    • HectorMaletta
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

      the quotation about why losses grow while storms decrease is mainly that people and assets increase: there are much more dollars and more people per sq.mile today than in 1901, so even weaker storms will destroy more valuable property. Pielke has done an excellent analysis of this with his “standardized hurricane impact” (figuring out the loss that past hurricanes would have caused, if the area affected contained the same amount of assets and people throughout the period of analysis).

    • HectorMaletta
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:20 PM | Permalink

      the quotation about why losses grow while storms decrease fails to mention that people and assets have a (strong) trend to increase over time: there are many more dollars invested per sq.mile today than in 1901, and also more people, so even weaker storms will destroy more valuable property and affect more victims. Pielke has done an excellent analysis of this with his “standardized hurricane impact” (figuring out the loss that past hurricanes would have caused, if the area affected contained the same amount of assets and people throughout the period of analysis).

      • Tamara
        Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

        I was more interested in the fact that the number of storms showed a decreasing trend over the 55 year period that should be most influenced by CO2 emissions.

    • nandhee jothi
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:51 PM | Permalink

      Not only is the asset base increasing , it is increasing exponentially in areas where the risk of loss is higher… eg. sea shores. larger houses, more luxurious houses, and more of them… mostly the underwriting criteria have changed.

  19. Don Penim
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:12 PM | Permalink

    The David Suzuki Foundation issued this report March 30, 2009:

    “Winter sports and the Olympics on thin ice due to global warming”

    Warmer winter temperatures mean less snow and ice, and shorter winter seasons. Environment Canada data show that the snow season in Eastern and Western Canada has decreased by nearly two and five weeks, respectively, over the past 50 years.

    “As Canadians, our identity and our future are closely connected with winter. The impact on winter sports that we are already seeing is an early warning sign of how vulnerable we are to climate change. This is a call to action for all Canadians, including our political leaders,” says David Suzuki.

    Full article here:

    • Sean Peake
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:35 PM | Permalink

      I used to admire Suzuki but he has become a windbag. His claim has no substance, I know there are no peer-reviewed studies/research to support it, and it is just another of a tiring string of catastrophes that await us if we don’t live our lives as he sees fit. Suzuki, please, please go away. Your time has come and gone.

    • nandhee jothi
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

      But, alpine & nordic events area have above normal snow now. so, there is no clear cut pattern here…. as itusually happens in nature

    • HectorMaletta
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 3:32 PM | Permalink

      Suppose they’re right, and the winter-sports season shortens (or, more likely, shifts Northwards) along this century. At the same time, as iso-thermal lines shift to the North and humidity increases, more Canadian territory would be suitable for crops, or for new crops formerly denied by a forbidding climate. If climate change may put tropical farmers under stress in some parts of the world, it could be a blessing for those at cooler climates. These benefits from climate change in Northern latitudes I deem, in my ignorance and simplicity of mind, far more important than any shortening of the season (or shifting of the zone) for winter sports.

    • Roy_US_Ohio
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 8:01 PM | Permalink

      Pardon me if this is naive and incorrect, but every time I hear these declarations I remind myself that we are talking about purportedly 0.7º C in warming. Is that sufficient to reduce the duration of a Canadian winter by 2 weeks in the east and 5 weeks in the west?

  20. Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

    The statement in the post above,

    If this task is set up like a court of law in which both sides are allowed to present evidence, then some modicum of balance should be achieved, and the outcome will not be predetermined.

    …made me think of this quote:

    Law is not justice and a trial is not a scientific inquiry into truth. A trial is the resolution of a dispute. Edison Haines

    You would also need to appoint an impartial magistrate and issue a subpoena duces tecum to RealClimate before this forum could be considered a court of any kind. Perhaps a different analogy is required.

  21. Tamara
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:39 PM | Permalink

    Regarding lake effect snow (warning: anecdotal evidence), this January for Grand Rapids ( the mean temp was 25dF (normal = 22.4) and the snow total was 9.3 inches (normal = 21.1). Last year mean temp was 17.5dF with 29.9 inches of snow. So, can you pick a year to year correlation of temperature and lake effect out of that? 🙂

    And just so D.C. doesn’t get all of the attention, Feb. 9 we had the 5th heaviest February snowfall on record and heaviest for that date.

  22. stephen richards
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:55 PM | Permalink

    The point about global warming is that it should drive these snowstorms further north. This winter the snow has been just as far south as in the 1800’s and 1900. This year on the french riviera, in the texas pan handle, atlanta and so on. Yes, theoretical, a warming planet would make more water vapour available for precipitation and you need more than just water vapour for it to fall. Its one of those theories than can neither be proved nor disproved without time and data, good data.

  23. Philanthropist
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:57 PM | Permalink

    Nice weather we’re having…..

  24. climaesceptico
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:22 PM | Permalink

    I can see an inescapable logic to the linkage between warming and recent winter weather as recounted by Jeff Masters above. However, if I apply that very same logic to past climatic events, the logic seems to disappear into thin air (at least it does to my untrained, non-climate-scientist mind) Please bear with me…

    Take an ice age, any ice age; preferably one that is Mann-proof, because we have such a mass of geological, chemical and paleontological evidence for its existence, that no hockey-stick can magically “melt it away”.

    Given what we know about the extent and thickness of ice cover during those events, we can infer that there was, well.. “a whole lotta snowing going on”. (Assumption: land ice cover during ace ages results from the accumulation of massive amounts of heavily compacted snow)

    Obviously snow requires precipitation (and cold, but I’ll forget about that momentarily). Precipitation, in turn, requires copious amounts of atmospheric humidity, and there is only one way (that I can think of) for that humidity to have come about: evaporation.

    This is where that pesky cold that I’d left aside momentarily, comes back into the picture and ruins everything. How does one reconcile the prerequisite evaporation with the fact that it was, well… so damned cold, that half of the northern hemisphere was covered by a layer of ice up to several kilometres deep? All that snow, we know, required the evaporation of enormous amounts of water, enough to lower sea levels by 120 meters!

    So… are past ice ages a sign of cooling (as evidenced by ice cover) or of warming (as evidenced by huge amounts of water evaporation)? And furthermore, could it be that warming over the past decades (and accompanying water evaporation) is actually the prelude to an ice age?

    All this doesn’t make any sense of course, so it is obvious to me that I am missing something fundamental in my (flawed) reasoning above.

    Would any of you care to put this ignorant AGW-sceptic on the right track regarding the above?

    • Brian Eglinton
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 11:58 PM | Permalink

      You raise an excellent point. It is my understanding that there is quite a lot of difficulty in modelling how to start an ice age.

      However if the oceans were much warmer, feeding a lot of moisture into the air, coincident with a rapidly cooling atmosphere, this would provides a reasonable mechanism to generate an ice age. This certainly makes a lot of sense to me.

      Click to access j18_2_83-90.pdf

    • Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:32 AM | Permalink

      Interesting theory in the paper cited by Brian. I admit I’m no scientist, but I am unfamiliar with the geochronological terminology used in that paper, so I’m not sure how it relates to the system of chronologic measurement I am familiar with.

      An alternative theory, described in this paper from 2001, claims the glacial-interglacial transition may be modeled with ocean circulation changes:

      Ganopolski, A., and S. Rahmstorf, Rapid changes of glacial climate simulated in a coupled climate model, Nature, 409, 153-158, 2001. (PDF)

      …published by Nature. A post in 2006 by Dr. Rahmsdorf at RealClimate provides some more detail, although he remains vague on the triggers for the circulation changes. Two possibly related papers are listed here.

  25. Redbone
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:24 PM | Permalink

    I have an old Mills slot machine and it emulates the weather very well. Sometimes there are very few payouts and sometimes there are a lot. Once in a while you hit the jackpot, and two jackpots can be hit close together. You must play many, many times to approach the average, and the majority of times that you take a small slice like ten or twenty pulls, you get unexpected results. It’s called randomness, and so far, I’ve seen no indication that what we are observing in the weather is anything other than random fluctuation.

    Further, if you start keeping a log of the machine’s payouts, for the first several thousand pulls you will set all kinds of records for lack or abundance of payouts. As your log gets larger and larger, the record highs and lows will become less frequent and, by definition, more extreme. Exactly what is happening with our weather logs.

    • nandhee jothi
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

      This is an excellent observation…. how many folks in MSM ignore this completely…

      but then you have folks Michael man.. who go about doctoring the data, so there is no Medival Warm Period or Little Ice Age

  26. Erasmus de Frigid
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

    I’m having a very good year.

  27. P Gosselin
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 3:14 PM | Permalink

  28. Theo Goodwin
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 4:14 PM | Permalink

    If some of you still believe that the recent snow from Richmond to NYC can be blamed on global warming, you will get a real challenge from Partick Michaels. Take him on at:

  29. Henry chance
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 4:27 PM | Permalink

    Good grief.

    Most people on this board follow the Pacific and its major and minor events. The Cypress ski venue is maybe a mile from the ocean. Expecting some cold wet long term smow quality is unrealistic. Whistler is well inland and farther from the warm Pacific waters.

  30. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

    Ryan, the comment that I excerpted below from the lead in to this thread rather tells me that you are being a bit sarcastic here.

    When I have heard the, not unexpected, MSM reports that the extraordinary winter storms could be rationalized by climate scientists as a sign of GW, I have been rather struck by the dearth of any credible detailed explanation. The best they seem to come up with is a hand wave to warm air holding more moisture and vague references to science being on their side.

    I think it would be instructive to attempt to drill down to any specific peer-reviewed studies of this phenomenon and see what they really say/conclude.

    But if I may be so bold I think I can take away from the IPCC the general view that the peer-reviewed consensus says that GW will have consequences, none of which will be beneficial. That being the case one cannot expect GW to bring warmer winters to soothe these old bones, but rather to be nastier than we can remember. Please note that while the Northeast will be blasted with heavy snow, the Southwest will suffer under drought conditions.

    If I add in the thought that the science debate is closed, I think the patriotic thing to do in these cases is not debate whether this weather fits the model but rather fit the weather to the model. To that end, I think some of these comments that I have heard from the MSM and some blogs have been very patriotic and I salute them.

    “So, here is the task for anyone that wants to participate: do an audit of the winter of 2009-2010 including the blizzards over the United States and put it in context with the current understanding associated with global warming. Tasks will include autopsying the weather/climate conditions responsible for the snow (or lackthereof) over the USA (or subregions), expertly assessing the peer-reviewed (or “not yet” or “grey”) literature on changes in winter cyclone behavior, and developing a consensus conclusion. It would also be grand if a certainty could be put on that conclusion. Obviously there are plenty of starting points with the IPCC, other US climate assessments, the mainstream media, blogs, newspapers and magazines. Thus, the current spectrum of expertise on the topic ranges from climate scientists, meteorologists, television personalities, journalists, all the way to bloggers in their basement. Seemingly, the various actors have different agendas at work.”

    • Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 9:19 PM | Permalink

      I imagine the National Wildlife Federation feels vindicated. I think they should be cited prominently.

  31. W. W. Wygart
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 5:09 PM | Permalink

    NOAA’s National Snow Analyses page is currently showing total snow cover at 63% of the continental US, and has been on the high side since the unexpected early Fall snowfalls back in October. A quick glance over at NOAA’s Northern hemisphere map shows a similar situation in Europe and Asia. At what point does this in itself become a significant feedback mechanism to global climate? I assume that our climate modeler friends are on top of the situation.

    Even I was clever enough as a child growing up [back when snow was considered a normal thing to have happen in the wintertime] to notice that the biggest snowstorms rarely came on the most frigid days , so I am certainly willing to entertain the notion that global warming may produce heavier snows here, or there, or everywhere; however, those snows will necessarily have their own knock-on effect. One cannot expect that covering an increasing portion of the planet with a heavy layer of snow that persists for weeks or months raising that area’s albedo to toward unity has anything but a net cooling effect, especially as the snow line moves toward more southerly latitudes.

    Of course the ice-age-right-away people will tell you that this is exactly how ice ages start, its not this grinding process over thousands of years as glaciers advancing from the north across the continent at 40cm a year, it’s really that it snows so much one year in Canada that the damned stuff simply never melts, then the next year its deeper, and the next year its deeper still – presto! – instant ice age. Interesting. Possible I suppose. I wonder how much it would have to snow north of the 44th parallel for it to never melt completely on an average summer? How much extra snow would we have to add to this year’s total to get us there? And, how much extra warming would that require?

    So, what is really going on here? signs of a relentless march towards a climate like that of Mustafar, or the planet’s climate governor kicking in quietly to nudge things in the opposite direction? Time will tell I am sure.

  32. George M
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 5:11 PM | Permalink

    It snowed in Dallas this morning, then Shreveport, and is forecast for Atlanta and maybe Jacksonville, FL. Far enough south for ya?

  33. Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 5:13 PM | Permalink

    If I can reference my own blog,

    Excerpt: “Herein lies the problem with Masters’ argument: global warming or no global warming, the heaviest snow occurs in DC when the air column is saturated and just below freezing, and a saturated slightly-subfreezing air column will always have exactly the same amount of water vapor, irrespective of what happens to the global average amount of water vapor. It will thus produce almost exactly the same amount of snow.”

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 5:30 PM | Permalink

      Re: John N-G (Feb 11 17:13),

      Trouble with your theory is that we’re not dealing with a static situation. It’s more like a battle line where the reserves are thrown into action as those on the front are depleted and pretty soon there can be drifts, as it were, of bodies. Not that I think the AGW theory is the last word either. The warm moist air can only continue to produce snow while it’s being run into by cold air from the north (or the south if we’re talking SH). If we have milder winters in general, it would seem to me that the location of the frontal collisions should tend toward being farther north and less intense.

      I’m looking forward to having some peer reviewed articles put forward here and being dissected.

  34. EdeF
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 5:50 PM | Permalink

    The Telegraph reported on Jan 2 that the UK Met Office has been predicting very mild winters with the possibility that snow in the UK in winter might be a thing of the past in a warming world. This seems to contradict the above mentioned references.

  35. EdeF
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

    Science Daily article 2003 says the Great Lakes has experienced heavier
    snowfall since the 1930s due to global warming, but the effect has not been seen elsewhere.

  36. Brian Schaible
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 6:14 PM | Permalink

    A warmer world leads to less turbulence and fewer storms, yet the hypothesis is that they become more intense. Even if snow in winter is associated with global warming. There is not likely a way to show that warming is due to anthropogenic carbon pollution. Never mind the fact that current climate is the most optimum we’ve seen in a long time. Yet suddenly the war-mists are calling for catastrophe.

    • Redbone
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

      Exactly. It is a cooling climate that creates more storms, not a warming one. And the AGW proponents have placed bets on all possible events. It’s like a psychic making thousands of predictions and letting all the false ones fade while trumpeting one or two successes. No one seems to be mentioning that it snowed in Dallas, is that part of the AGW predictions too?

      • gimply
        Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

        In that horrible 1978 storm in the Northeast, I managed to do business in Boston, Newark, Washington and St. Louis in the Mon-Thurs, respectively, but couldn’t complete the trip due to an ice storm in Dallas which closed DFW. Watching the DC weather on TV has brought me vivid recollections. Of course, I didn’t then know that it was all caused by ME, and you, and you, and you….

  37. Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 12:26 AM | Permalink

    We have been repeatedly told that our ski resorts would disappear due to AGW, and that the snows on Mt Kilimanjaro will disappear because of AGW. So how then can they claim AGW will cause more snow. Its contradictory.

    In terms of extreme weather tornadoes are caused by the collision of hot and cold air masses so if the world was warming tornadoes should be happening closer to the poles, in terms of hurricanes they follow oceans with a warm SST so we should be seeing more of them not less, in terms of snow and blizzards we should be seeing less of them and not more.

  38. Ausie Dan
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 8:17 AM | Permalink

    I’m sorry to throw cold water on this discussion.
    But it is quite stupid.
    The AGW crowd can do all this quite well without the help of yourselves.
    It is a distraction.

    With all the important enquiries going on at present, it is vital for those of you with expertise to use your full efforts to ensure that the real facts are forceably drawn to the various committee members of the investigations.

    Sorry Steve.
    I much admire you, but this is a distraction that nobody can afford.

    Postpone this discussion for a date ten years ahead.
    Serious work is still required.

    Steve: This post was done by Ryan M. I spent no time on it and am happy to host it.

    • Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:51 AM | Permalink

      Ausie Dan, the motivation of this post is to highlight how a climate news event (supposedly) is covered in real-time by the media, and how scientists react (or don’t) to the ongoing story. You’ll notice that very few scientists with any cache are on the record concerning the validity of the nonsensical claims made by journalists — who are speculating to basically fill copy and airtime.

      Our National Climate Service hasn’t said squat on the subject.

      • Kenneth Fritsch
        Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

        Ryan, your reply here bears repeating. I have noted the same thing you have on this topic and I have attempted to read all the MSM reports on it in attempts to drill back to some scientific source for the information. Without this thread I would have probably not read many of these articles and simply written them off as the same old same old.

        I have followed some blog links that have deadended rather early. The most I read from journalists is their mentioning that climate scientists have predicted heavier snow for some years now, but without giving any sources.

        Has anyone come up with some reasonable sources for these comments in this thread?

      • AMac
        Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 12:14 PM | Permalink

        Baltimore Sun Op-Ed, 2/14/09, pg. 27
        The sky really is falling
        Online headline, “How global warming contributed to the snow.”

        A warming world increases atmospheric moisture, which leads to massive snowstorms

        by Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

        “… So if global warming is happening, why in the world are we literally buried in snow?

        It’s a good question, and thankfully, the answer is pretty straightforward. In fact, the growing pattern of extreme snowfall in our region has the fingerprints of climate change all over it — even as temperatures steadily rise across America and the world…”

        Scientific authorities cited:

        “Water vapor in the global atmosphere jumped by about 5 percent in the 20th century, P.Y. Groisman and his colleagues reported in 2004. This while there has been an observed, significant uptick in heavy winter precipitation events in the Northeastern U.S., according to a 2006 study.”

        “Just last fall, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, established by Congress in 1990, predicted more violent storms in the Northeast due to climate change. “Strong cold season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent, with greater wind speeds and more extreme wave heights,” the agency said.”

        “There’s good evidence that El Ninos are becoming more frequent and lasting longer as the planet warms, thus conforming to the overall pattern of increasingly extreme weather.” (No citation given)

  39. Charles DrPH
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

    Hmmm…the good folks of Cambridge, Mass. seem to have decided that there is a “climate emergency” after all!!

    Click to access 021210_cambridge.pdf

    Get ready for the Green Police!

  40. stephen richards
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 2:09 PM | Permalink

    A little thought experiment.

    Computer models tell us that the planet warms fastest at the poles and in particular the north pole. So as the poles warm the temperature differential between the temperate and tropical zones is reduced. This reduction in temperature gradient reduces the energy available to the cyclones so they become less intense and storms become less violent. The jet stream then begins to move steadily north guiding the depressions around the artic circle.

    Is that how it works for the computers?

  41. luc
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 2:55 PM | Permalink

    The first question to be asked is if there is any global warming at all. This initiative is already trying to caculate open source a global temperature based on NOAA data:

  42. Allen63
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    I agree with the sense of a comment above:

    Global Warming (whatever the cause) decreases temperature gradients over the surface of the Earth. Temperature gradients drive storms. Thus, increased warming leads to decreased storms and decreased storm intensity overall (still can have powerful individual events). If so, increased storms and rising average storm intensity corresponds to cooling.

    Ergo: Though individual extreme weather events (like the current snowstorms) don’t prove anything, collectively they argue against global warming.

    Meanwhile, I thought this was a unique confluence of events — el nino leading to high moisture combined with unusually cold northern land surface temperatures leading to “snow”. The key here is “unusually cold” — proving nothing — yet implying global “cooling”.

    But, what do I know?

  43. mamapajamas
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

    Hmmm… weird.

    We’re having snow in North Florida. We get snow in North Florida about every 20 years or so. The last time we had (sticking) snow here was Christmas of 1989. So this snow is pretty much on time.

    Snow in North Florida today is evidence of a perfectly normal weather cycle, not AGW or anything else.

  44. Dan Pangburn
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

    snip – sorry. Blog policies prohibit people trying to prove and/or disprove AGW in three paragraphs.

  45. R.S.Brown
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 4:58 AM | Permalink

    Snow: 49 out of 50 states.

  46. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

    OK, I took a little time to investigate and the best background I found on winter snow storms was at Jeff Masters website linked and excerpted below. That link had links to 2 papers that I have also linked below.

    The first link is to a 2009 paper that shows (Figure 3) that the ten worst snowstorms for each of several cities in the contiguous 48 states occurred in increasing order from 1948 to the middle 1970s and then decreased from that time period to the present. I suspect a trend line, as Masters indicates, would show no trend over the entire time.

    The second link from an earlier paper with the same author in Figure 7 shows trend lines for snowstorm occurrences from 1901 to 2000 in several regions of the US and I see no obvious trends in any regions, including the Northeast.

    I am not sure how Jeff Masters’ comment follows from what I read in these two papers, but I am sure that one can cherry pick bits and pieces to support a conjecture. I would suggest that any interester participant here read them and judge for themselves.

    I get a kick when I see an estimated average 5% moisture increase in the atmosphere thrown at these storms as an explanation with no further details. Does that 5% mean that the snow accumulation should be 5% more than a normal in a heavy snow storm of historical times – or 1 inch out 20?

    Ryan, I am guessing that these catastrophic snow storm events are somewhat analogous to hurricanes and the many factors that influence them and the need to have just the right convergence of conditions to get the really big ones.

    Excerpt from Masters site:

    “More heavy snowstorms occur in warmer-than-average years
    I made this point in yesterday’s blog post, but it’s worth repeating. Another interesting result from the Changnon et al. (2006) paper of Figure 2 is the relationship between heavy snowstorms and the average winter temperature. For the contiguous U.S. between 1900 – 2001, the authors found that 61% – 80% of all heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches occurred during winters with above normal temperatures. In other words, the old adage, “it’s too cold to snow”, has some truth to it. The authors also found that 61% – 85% of all heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches occurred during winters that were wetter than average. The authors conclude, “a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches than in 1901 – 2000. The authors found that over the U.S. as a whole, there had been a slight but significant increase in heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches than in 1901 – 2000. So, there is evidence that the average climate of the U.S. over the past 100 years is colder than optimal for heavy snow events to occur. If the climate continues to warm, we should expect an increase in heavy snow events for a few decades, until the climate grows so warm that we pass the point where winter temperatures are at the optimum for heavy snow events. However, a study by Houston and Changnon (2009) on the most severe types of snowstorms–the “top ten” heaviest snows on record for each of 121 major U.S. cities–shows no upward or downward trend in the very heaviest snowstorms for the contiguous U.S. between 1948 – 2001.”

    Click to access fulltext.pdf

    Click to access i1558-8432-45-8-1141.pdf

    • ryanm
      Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 4:34 PM | Permalink

      Ryan, I am guessing that these catastrophic snow storm events are somewhat analogous to hurricanes and the many factors that influence them and the need to have just the right convergence of conditions to get the really big ones.

      Thanks, Kenneth I think this pretty much ends this thread’s usefulness. One weather guy / blogger at a website (Masters) puts out a scenario, very speculative about the origins of 2-snowstorms WITHOUT any diagnostic analysis at all. The media goes nuts because their agendas match and politically Jeff Masters’ analysis is irresistible.

      2 papers on do not indicate a consensus on the topic, more research is required. Also, I fail to see how the 1 degree F of warming is even detectable in snowstorms, when it is NOT detectable in our hurricane records.

  47. ryanm
    Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

    …bump…updated with Washington Post Dana Milbank story.

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