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A Warming Planet Can Mean More Snow 1136

Posted by kdawson
from the black-ice-and-white dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "NPR reports that with snow blanketing much of the country, the topic of global warming has become the butt of jokes; but for scientists who study the climate, there's no contradiction between a warming world and lots of snow. 'The fact that the oceans are warmer now than they were, say, 30 years ago means there's about on average 4 percent more water vapor lurking around over the oceans than there was... in the 1970s,' says Kevin Trenberth, a prominent climate scientist. 'So one of the consequences of a warming ocean near a coastline like the East Coast and Washington, DC, for instance, is that you can get dumped on with more snow partly as a consequence of global warming.' Increased snowfall also fits a pattern suggested by many climate models, in which rising temperatures increase the amount of atmospheric moisture, bringing more rain in warmer conditions and more snow in freezing temperatures."
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A Warming Planet Can Mean More Snow

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  • by digitalunity (19107) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .ytinulatigid.> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @10:57PM (#31163920) Homepage

    Sort of. More water in the air is a good thing for drought areas, if the water gets where it needs to be and stays there. In some areas, heavy rain typically comes down as a flood and the water isn't retained.

    The flooding causes damage but doesn't really help crops. If global warming can increase cloud cover and cause more rain in areas that need it, that is definitely a good thing.

    Warming oceans on the other hand isn't great. It's thought to be a primary ingredient for heavy hurricane seasons. I'm no geologist but logic seems to indicate to me that if it gets too hot near the equator, it just won't rain. The air will be supersaturated all the time and will never cool enough to rain.

    That's just a guess though.

  • by theguyfromsaturn (802938) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:02PM (#31163956)

    As anybody living in Canada knows, it doesn't snow on cold winter days. It snows on the warmer winter days. I've never witness snow at les than minus 7 or 10 Celcius. Most of the time, it's not far from the freezing point that you get your really heavy snowfalls. So, I do tend to agree, that lots of snow in no way contradicts global warming.

    As for proving or disproving Global warming, a better indicator than any of the temperature measurements is the measurement of the thickness of the icecaps in the arctic. Those massive sheets of ice are not subject to localized short term variations of climate, but reflect the integration of many year's worth of effects. By all accounts the maximum thickness of the arctic ice sheets is decreasing rapidly.

  • by DamienRBlack (1165691) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:06PM (#31164006)

    Well, when we have long-term evidence (not short-term anecdotal evidence) that climates aren't changing (15 years is nothing) and a model that explains why all the stuff we're pumping into the atmosphere isn't having an effect, we'll reconsider our theory. in the meantime we are at a crossroads of speculation. You say, "who knows what'll happen, we don't know how complex systems like this work", I say, "doesn't that worry you? shouldn't we then minimize our impact until we better understand". The very fact that there are conflicting opinions screams to me that we don't know what we're doing, and should tread lightly.

    A counter question, what evidence do you need to start believing in global warming? Evidence has come and gone, there are valid points on both ends, but I'm sure you've been a staunch global warming denier the whole time. If you position any more reasoned? Lets say for a moment that neither of us really know what is going to happen, since we don't. Isn't it better to be careful. If global warming supporters are wrong, do big deal, we wasted money adopting green technology we need to support ourselves sooner or later anyway. If global warming critics are wrong are chances are that the consequences are very dire. Are you so sure from you 15 years of data that the climate won't ever budge that you are willing to risk civilization as we know it? Even if the chance or global warming is only 10%, or even 1% it seems like a good idea to be on the safe side.

    Besides, the article is common sense. If it is snowing hard, how did all that water get into the atmosphere? It was so cold that the water appeared in the sky? No, that means that oceans must be abnormally warm, therefor hastening the water cycle. Or it means that it was a random local fluke that no meaningful data can be extrapolated from. Anyone who uses local temperatures and conditions to either support or deny global warming is an idiot.

  • by EightBitBanger (1544977) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:11PM (#31164062)

    The thing many people overlook (the global warming people especially) is that if you go back and look at ice core samples and prehistoric patterns of glaciation, the current weather patterns look eerily similar to what has happened before.

    Specifically: initial warming leads to the melting of the permafrost, which leads to a massive release of CO2 into the atmosphere. This promotes runaway global warming -- which unfortunately means greater ocean temperatures and much more evaporation. This means more rain and more SNOW.

    Additionally, it also tends to disrupt ocean currents and the rotation of heat from the equator to the poles (i.e. the vast majority of Europe is at Latitudes higher than Canada is -- and if it weren't for the warm ocean currents they would have equally frigid weather).

    The basic problem is that if you get enough extended period of heavy snow, you may eventually get enough snowpack to resist melting well into the summer months. This is exacerbated by the fact that snow, being white, reflects a HUGE amount of light/heat back into space. In essence, due to snow fall, cold weather is somewhat self-perpetuating.

    Eventually you reach a situation where the amount of extra snow that falls in the winter is too great in certain latitudes to EVER completely melt in the winter -- and then things start going down hill from there. Thanks to the fact that evaporation / refreezing and then remelting acts as a wonderful method for desalinization of seawater, you also end up playing merry havoc with the ocean currents as well (and end up with much more coastal ice formation as the freezing point of the fresh water run off is much higher than that of pure seawater). Eventually the currents supplying heat to the North Atlantic basically shut down altogether and things go to hell in a hand basket (i.e. hell freezes over!).

    The point that most of the "global warming" alarmists miss is that data shows that in the past both average global temperatures *and* CO2 levels peaked at levels significantly HIGHER than they are right now -- immediately before the planet plunged into the next ice age.

    People need to realize that ALL of recorded human history has occurred in the current warm interglacial period -- which is only the most recent one. Furthermore, they need to realize that these warm interglacials of 20K-25K years are the EXCEPTION not the rule -- with ice ages of 100K years or more being the norm (with the interglacial periods between them).

    While the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" was largely pure BS, there were some grains of actual science behind it (albeit they sped up the time table of events by several orders of magnitude to make it exciting).

  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:15PM (#31164098) Journal

    The IPCC did royally frak up on the himalayan glaciers, that is indisputable. However, the DailyMail distorted the issue to its own ends. []

  • by geekpowa (916089) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:16PM (#31164108)

    Yet - so many predictions made by AGW that did not come to be - but are just silently discarded and substituted with even more fearful headlines of events soon to come. Because it's always worse than we thought.

    It seems to me that the only thing that will conclusively falsify AGW at this stage is if the climate were to do absolutely nothing and act in a completely boring fashion for a clear run of several decades. Which paleoclimate records show the climate is anything but this. So as long as there is variability - as there always has been variability - the AGW bogey man will be invoked to explain it.

    What to believe anymore? As a layperson - I've personally reached the point where I simply cannot trust what anyone says. I've tried to make sense of the issue myself with what little scientific and statistical background I have and what little I can understand from the literature I am not particularly impressed with the quality of evidence supporting the AGW hypothesis.

  • by NatasRevol (731260) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:20PM (#31164146) Journal

    Not to mention the fact that Greenland alone is losing 53 cubic miles of ice *every year*. []

  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:27PM (#31164218) Journal

    If the tide rises it is because of gravity. If the tide recedes it is because of gravity.

    Wow. Welcome to the world where you can make PREDICTIONS about the tide and the moon which ACTUALLY COME TRUE EVERY SINGLE TIME WITH A STUNNING DEGREE OF ACCURACY and show you have a useful model with gravity.

    Now please note that before excessive snowfall, no fucking global warming campaigners said ANYTHING about "there will be a blizzard in 2010 and it will prove global warming".

    Where was the prediction? Where is the proof? Oh, that's right, Say hello to the fact that AFTER the snow storms they now pop up and say "hey you see that? you see it? that could have been caused by global warming".

    Well, I say this past snowfall could *just as easily* have been caused by the deez-nuts effect.

    Do us all a favor. Go fuck off into the room that we keep the cold fusion guys in and come back when you have a working model with explicit predictive properties that is at least one step above the deez-nuts effect and we might actually give a fuck.

  • by barzok (26681) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:29PM (#31164238)

    As anybody living in Canada knows, it doesn't snow on cold winter days. It snows on the warmer winter days. I've never witness snow at les than minus 7 or 10 Celcius. Most of the time, it's not far from the freezing point that you get your really heavy snowfalls. So, I do tend to agree, that lots of snow in no way contradicts global warming.

    IME, -12C seems to be about the breaking point for snow in NY. It'll vary some, of course. Best part of cold-weather snow? It's very dry & fluffy, very easy to shovel.

    For those of us on the other side of the border, the longer the surfaces of the Great Lakes stay ice-free, the more snow we get from lake-effect. Buffalo has a reputation for getting buried with snow, but it actually gets less snow than Rochester or Syracuse. Once the east half of Lake Erie freezes (Lake Ontario doesn't freeze to the extent Erie does), the snow machine for Buffalo shuts down (usually by mid-January).

    So yes, if the overall temperature stays a little higher, western & central NY get hammered with snow.

  • by pnewhook (788591) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:33PM (#31164272)

    Because we are at the tail end of an ice age. The natural state of the planet is no ice at the poles - the way it has been for the majority of history.

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @11:57PM (#31164512) Journal

    Now please note that before excessive snowfall, no fucking global warming campaigners said ANYTHING about "there will be a blizzard in 2010 and it will prove global warming".

    Hey, they predicted the disastrous Atlantic hurricane seasons of 2006 and 2007!

    Oh, wait, didn't happen. Never mind.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @12:09AM (#31164612) Journal

    And all the recorded historical data proves these to be facts, right?

    Yes. []

    Sorry, I mis-remembered: 2009 is the second warmest year on-record. 2000-2009 is still the warmest decade.

    Is that with or without the data from the Siberian weather stations? Seems that all the cold spots have been omitted in some of the recent data sets. Is your source one of them?

    Here is what I got from the article:

    To conduct its analysis, GISS uses publicly available data from three sources: weather data from more than a thousand meteorological stations around the world; satellite observations of sea surface temperature; and Antarctic research station measurements. These three data sets are loaded into a computer program, which is available for public download from the GISS website. The program calculates trends in temperature anomalies — not absolute temperatures — but changes relative to the average temperature for the same month during the period of 1951-1980.

    So... how can they claim that it's the warmest record in history when the control data set only includes data from 1951-1980? Why does Antarctica, which takes up only a small fraction of the earth's surface make up 1/3 of the report? Why not the arctic? And again, is this from the dataset where monitoring stations were mysteriously moved when they shouldn't have been, not moved when they should have been (like when a parking lot is build where the monitor stands), or omitted altogether, like was the case in Siberia.

    In other words, the raw has been tampered with.

  • by zz5555 (998945) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @12:19AM (#31164684)
    And Phil Jones didn't say that there was no warming over the last 15 years. He said that the time period was too short to say if it was statistically significant or not (though he said it awkwardly). Oddly enough, had they asked about 1994 (or any number prior to 1995), the answer would have been yes, there has been statistically significant warming. But the reporter set it up so that an honest scientist had to answer no (with the added caveat that the time period was too short to say anything was statistically significant).
  • by FiloEleven (602040) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @12:41AM (#31164864)

    You exclude the possibility that the model for AGW is flawed and that the climate is changing for other reasons. As folks here are fond of pointing out, correlation is not causation.

    The article fails to mention how long scientists have seen no contradiction between harsh winters and AGW. Is this something that has been predicted from the start, or is it a new development? If it is a new development, was it studied as its own phenomenon before modifying the AGW model to fit the data? That is, if this was not originally predicted, can we be reasonably sure that the AGW model isn't being shoehorned to fit contradicting data? The reasoning outlined in the summary makes sense, I would just like to know if it is ad hoc or not.

  • by zz5555 (998945) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @12:57AM (#31165006)

    Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995 []

    At least now we know why they were illegally denying FOI requests for their data.

    UN climate body admits 'mistake' on Himalayan glaciers []

    How many more "mistakes", falsifications, and fabrications need to be exposed before this scam goes buh-bye?

    So: 1. Phil Jones did not say there had been no global warming since 1995. He said that it (barely) wasn't statistically significant since the time period was too short for the statistics (ie, not enough data). Oddly enough, had they asked about 1994 or any year prior to 1995 the answer would have been yes. So the question was pretty much a set up. 2. It appears that they did fully reply to the FOI request, giving Mr. Keenan all the data he asked for. The data was also published on their website, so it's not like anybody couldn't find it. 3. The IPCC document is something like 2400 pages and so far there has only been one error found. I'd be surprised if there aren't more. I mean, look at your response: you only had about 4 sentences and two of them were incorrect. :)

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris&beau,org> on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:11AM (#31165154)

    > I think there are far more extraordinary claims out there: flat-world theory...

    Perhaps I should qualify my statement with "most extraordinary claim given serious consideration". Yes flat earthers, Troofers, Lyndon Larouch, Faked Moonlanding theorists, etc. are about as zany bit nobody sane takes them seriously. The US just came a few weeks from Cap & Tax sailing right through Congress based on nothing but smoke and mirrors. Thankfully with the IPCC report now discredited it probably isn't going anywhere in the Senate.

    > yours is rather extraordinary as well: that carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane don't affect the climate despite reams of planetological data

    In sufficent quantities and sufficent time it probably has an effect. Greater than the normal climate cycles? Ah, now that is debatable. Will the proposed solution be far worse than than any problem? Almost certainly. And it still comes down to AGW being a big claim based to pretty flimsy evidence and the only solution being offered up is so preposterous as to merit only laughter wnen comparing the cost to the odds of AGW really causing the sorts of mayhem envisioned by the scaremongers pushing a political agenda.

    > ...not simply Earth-based...

    Btw, that reminds me to mention that if we can trust NASA (and I don't, Hansen is a liar) for Earth temp data why are you guys ignoring their observations of higher temps on other bodies outside the influence of our Hummers? I'd suggest that if it is true the Earth is a bit warmer you might want to go outdoors on a clear day and look up to find suspect #1. Disprove that theory before attempting to introduce a far more complicated one.

    > Your characterization of the proposed solutions is rather hyperbolic, too.

    Have you actually studied the Kyoto Treaty, the various proposals that died an ignoble death in Copenhagan or the the proposed Waxman/Markey bill. Or perhaps you could examine the European implementation. Yes it really does involve the taking over of pretty much everything.

    > Why can't an economy run on energy derived from sources other than the burning of fossil fuels?

    That is an almost totally unrelated issue. I support a massive crash program to get the US off imported oil for purely political reasons, thus support building Nuke plants like our very lives depended on it. Want a Manhattan Project size research effort to make fusion practical? Sign me up.

    Wind power and solar panels? No. Don't hate em, just consider them an impractical use of public resources based on the potential return on investment. If the marketplace wants to invest in it and proves me wrong I'll be happy to say I was wrong but we can't afford to invest a lot in pure blue sky projects with little expectation of success, especially in a major recession.

    Biofuels don't interest me either, can't see how they become practical on a large enough scale without causing famine. Famine is bad.

    Geothermal is showing some problems of late, but it still has potential in some places and the bugs could still get solved.

    Tidal power might be practical someday, probably too far out to help with the immediate need to make Saudi oil worth about the same as their sand though.

    > How would a conversion to non-carbon-emitting energy eliminate most of the world's industrial base? People will still need stuff, even if it costs more.

    Perhaps you really don't know. The idea is to eliminate most of the world's industrial base by simply making it too expensive to maintain. And people can want stuff but it juts won't be available in sufficient quantity. And they will be expected to learn to live with less. The whole point isn't to save the Earth, it is to bring about changes in society. A more agrarian society more in tune with Mother Earth.... and obedient to Big Brother.

    I am old enough to remember when the same people were making the same recomendations to save the world from the coming Ice Age and when

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:30AM (#31165324)

    A detailed study was done of “the relationships of the storm frequencies to seasonal temperature and precipitation conditions” for the years “1901–2000 using data from 1222 stations across the United States.” The 2006 study, Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States [] [PDF] (Chagnon et al., 2006) found we get more snow storms in warmer years:

    Results for the November–December period showed that most of the United States had experienced 61%– 80% of the storms in warmer-than-normal years. Assessment of the January–February temperature conditions again showed that most of the United States had 71%–80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years. In the March–April season 61%–80% of all snowstorms in the central and southern United States had occurred in warmer-than-normal years. Thus, these comparative results reveal that a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more snowstorms than in 1901–2000. Agee (1991) found that long-term warming trends in the United States were associated with increasing cyclonic activity in North America, further indicating that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.

  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:56AM (#31165548) Homepage
    On the contrary, even in the absence of evidence of AGW, most of our strategies are just common economic sense and good health policy

    It's not the basic idea that's the problem, it's the extreme lengths some of the more enthusiastic supporters want to go to.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @02:05AM (#31165612)
    I honestly don't care who believes and who doesn't believe. The more important fact is that peer-reviewed papers consistently come to the conclusion that AGW is happening []. I have yet to see a peer-reviewed paper that comes to the conclusion that AGW is not happening. If there were evidence that AGW were not happening, I would think someone would think it important enough to write up a paper about it. Do they all just write blogs and make YouTube videos and never think to write a paper?
  • by karcirate (1685354) on Wednesday February 17, 2010 @01:25PM (#31171940)
    That is like asking for proof that G-d does not exist - there is no proof. Those saying AGW is not happening are not really saying that. What they are saying is that there is no conclusive evidence that it IS happening. For someone to come to the conclusion that it is NOT happening would be kinda the same as concluding that it is happening - it would be a claim with insufficient hard evidence.
  • by zz5555 (998945) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @11:28AM (#31184912)

    So lets look at those errors:
    (1) Himalayan glaciers could be gone by 2030

    Yes, that's the error. And it was corrected after the error was pointed out.

    (2) there's been a rising cost of disasters due to more CO2

    This is based on the story by Jonathan Leake, I'm guessing. The IPCC report said that one study indicated there was an increase in costs due to AGW while other studies did not detect a trend. So the IPCC report was balanced. Isn't that what people want? I haven't heard of a retraction by Leake yet.

    (3) 40% of amazon forest could be destroyed by warming

    This was based on research by Richard North and reported by Jonathan Leake. The research by North has been shown to be in error and several errors were pointed out to Leake prior to his publishing the story, but that didn't stop him. I haven't heard of a retraction as yet, but since you're repeating the claim, I'm guessing there hasn't been one.

    (4) 55% of Holland is below sea level.

    This was based on data provided by the Dutch government, so I'm not sure you can call this an IPCC error. However, it was corrected when the Dutch government changed their value. And it wasn't used to make any conclusions in the IPCC report, so if you want to call it an error, it was a trivial one.

    So there you have it. One real error and one maybe error. And here's the thing: when the IPCC is found to be in error, they correct it. That's something I don't see from skeptics. Heck, just this week someone repeated the claim that Mars is warming and that's been debunked for I don't know how long. Or I'll hear that scientists have to be pro-AGW to get funding and that's well known not to be true. I would really like the skeptics to be better because I don't think I buy all the claims of AGW, but all the skeptics (at least the ones that get any publicity) seem to have difficulty with logic and math and science and ethics. There's certainly some of that on the pro-AGW side, but it seems that all the best scientists are pro-AGW and only the second or third tier will lean to anti-AGW. I don't know, maybe there are some real top notch skeptics out there, but I bet if there are, that they're being quiet because right now it's really embarrassing to be affiliated with the skeptics.

  • by GlenRaphael (8539) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:03PM (#31188352) Homepage

    >>there's been a rising cost of disasters due to more CO2

    >This is based on the story by Jonathan Leake, I'm guessing. The IPCC report said that one study indicated there was an increase in costs due to AGW while other studies did not detect a trend. So the IPCC report was balanced. Isn't that what people want?

    The IPCC based their claim on a preprint, unpublished, non-peer-reviewed article which, when eventually published, did not show a trend. The IPCC ignored actual peer-reviewed articles that showed no trend to do this. And maintained this position despite complaints by the "expert reviewers", going so far as to misrepresent the view of one of the scientists (Pielke) whose work had found no trend. So the IPCC report was *not* balanced on this subject. "balanced" would have been to show the *actual* consensus view of the peer-reviewed literature at the time: that there was no trend.

    I'm not basing any of this on stories by Jonathan Leake. Leake wrote some stories based on what had been uncovered in the blogosphere, of which there's a lot more where those came from; the IPCC has responded with weak apologetics that included such silly claims as "only one error has been found".

    > And here's the thing: when the IPCC is found to be in error, they correct it.

    Your evidence for this is what, exactly? Like I said, there is no provision for correcting errors other than waiting for the next report to come out year later and hoping it gets fixed then. Even if they admit an error has been made, they don't republish the report fixing the errors and don't publish an errata listing them. Do they?

    >That's something I don't see from skeptics.

    Maybe you're following the wrong skeptics. My impression has been the reverse of yours. When people like Steve McIntyre or Craig Loehle or Ross McKitrick make a mistake, they admit it and fix it and redo the work to see if it made a difference. And they make their data public so anybody can check it. When people like Michael Mann or Gavin Schmidt or Phil Jones make a mistake, they deny it and hide their data from critics and pretend the error doesn't matter or doesn't exist.

FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies.