Less Snow, More Blizzards – Climate Changes Winter Math

February 20, 2013

Paul Douglas does a great job explaining the paradox that a lot of people have noticed. I love his style because you can shoot this video to your grandmother, and she’ll be comfortable with the format and the messenger.

Seth Borenstein – Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — With scant snowfall and barren ski slopes in parts of the Midwest and Northeast the past couple of years, some scientists have pointed to global warming as the culprit.

Then when a whopper of a blizzard smacked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow in some places earlier this month, some of the same people again blamed global warming.

How can that be? It’s been a joke among skeptics, pointing to what seems to be a brazen contradiction.

But the answer lies in atmospheric physics. A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that’s likely to continue with man-made global warming.


— The United States has been walloped by twice as many of the most extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the previous 60 years, according to an upcoming study on extreme weather by leading federal and university climate scientists. This also fits with a dramatic upward trend in extreme winter precipitation — both rain and snow — in the Northeastern U.S. charted by the National Climatic Data Center.

— Yet the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says that spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has shrunk on average by 1 million square miles in the last 45 years.

— And an upcoming study in the Journal of Climate says computer models predict annual global snowfall to shrink by more than a foot in the next 50 years. The study’s author said most people live in parts of the United States that are likely to see annual snowfall drop between 30 and 70 percent by the end of the century.

“Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. “That’s the new world we live in.”

Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.

10 Responses to “Less Snow, More Blizzards – Climate Changes Winter Math”

  1. South Carolina weatherman, Jim Gandy, is another knowledgeable grandmother friendly meteorologist.


  2. ahaveland Says:

    Great presentation style.
    North America getting hammered by more storms at the moment…
    CNN still tiptoeing around the elephant in the room. It’s almost funny.

  3. […] Paul Douglas does a great job explaining the paradox that a lot of people have noticed. I love his style because you can shoot this video to your grandmother, and she'll be comfortable with the for…  […]

  4. But we still have “FOX world” Robertson on TV:

    Robertson Dismisses ‘Nutty,’ ‘True Believer’ Climate Scientists


  5. rayduray Says:

    Scientific American story:

    Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw

    Melting of significant portions of Arctic permafrost could accelerate climate change into a catastrophe


    • Rayduray: I’m sure that if you have ever seen the Trans Alaska Pipe line you noticed the Vertical support members on the pipeline where it is above the ground. “Planners realized that the pipeline couldn’t be buried in the permafrost […] To avoid these complications, the engineers made an important decision: About one-half of the pipeline (about 700 kilometers) would have to be built above ground. They supported the pipe with refrigeration posts that are topped with aluminum radiators. The posts conduct heat away from the soil.”

      This means that the arctic is not the only place that there is permafrost:
      “PERMAFROST Any land or solid area below ground level that remains frozen (below zero degrees Celsius) for longer than two years.”
      I know from my experiences in the arctic that it can, on occasion, get very warm but it does not last for long, as the chart below shows. If you look at the mean temperature you will see that it is not warming up like you want to believe, but then what do these people know that keep and compile these records?
      Past Monthly Weather Data for Kaktovik, AK [Alaska] (“Barter Island (dew)”) : JANUARY, 1947 – 2012
      All months for this station: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

      “The National Weather Service, the official weather reporting and recording agency of the federal government reported 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) at Fort Yukon on June 27, 1915, as the highest recorded temperature in the state. The lowest recorded temperature was minus 80 degrees F (-62.8 degrees C) at Prospect Creek, about 25 miles southeast of Bettles, on January 23, 1971.”

      You could find this interesting piece of information for when you want to cry about the raising sea levels form this site.
      “From 1865 to 1868 William Healy Dall’s Western Union Telegraph Expedition explored Alaska’s Interior and Yukon River. Dall’s survey produced the map on the left. Note the dramatic physiographic changes since that time on the current map of the same area on the right. Dall noted the presence of a shallow shoal from Stuart Island to Capt Romanzof and termed this feature a “3 fathom curve.” Today, much of this bathymetric contour, presumably Yukon River sediment outwash, is completely above tidewater.”

  6. “Paul Douglas does a great job explaining the paradox that a lot of people have noticed”; but, why didn’t he mention these historical events? Can we assume that if the facts do not promote the desired narrative, they should not be mentioned?

    “The Great Blizzard of 1899
    February 11 – 14, 1899
    Continental United States
    From Georgia to Maine, temperatures dropped to record temperatures. Tallahassee reached -2 F; Minden, Louisiana, -16 F; Camp Logan, Montana, -61F; Washignton, D.C., -15 F. Snowfall began in Florida and moved rapidly north. Washington, D.C. recorded 20 inches in a single day; New Jersey, 34 inches—still a record”

    “The Great Blizzard of 1888 (the Great White Hurricane)
    March 11 – 14, 1888
    Eastern United States
    Snowfall of 40 to 50 inches was recorded over New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut as sustained winds created drifts as much as 50 feet tall. Total deaths are thought to have exceeded 400. Most of the cities on the eastern seaboard were shut down for days, if not weeks.”

    “The Schoolhouse Blizzard (aka The Schoolchildren’s or Children’s Blizzard)
    January 12, 1888
    Great Plains States
    This blizzard gets its name from the many schoolchildren who died when trapped in one room school houses. More than 230 are said to have died.
    The tragedy of this storm was created by its suddenness, and by the warm conditions that immediately preceded it. Lulled into complacency by a balmy day, people ventured from their houses to do chores and head to town. Many were improperly dressed. Then, an arctic front crashed into moisture laden air from the Gulf of Mexico, bringing sudden drops of temperature to as low as -40 F, as well as large amounts of snow.
    This was the first of two major blizzards in 1888.”

  7. […] 2013/02/20: PSinclair: Less Snow, More Blizzards – Climate Changes Winter Math […]

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