Sunday, February 9, 2014

The end of snow?

Today the New York Times ran an extraordinary tale about the end of snow.
"The planet has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s, and as a result, snow is melting. In the last 47 years, a million square miles of spring snow cover has disappeared from the Northern Hemisphere. Europe has lost half of its Alpine glacial ice since the 1850s, and if climate change is not reined in, two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100."

"The same could happen in the United States, where in the Northeast, more than half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years because of warmer winters. As far for the Western part of the country, it will lose an estimated 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed — reducing the snowpack in Park City, Utah, to zero and relegating skiing to the top quarter of Ajax Mountain in Aspen."

Now I knew that glaciers had been retreating, but my glaciologist friends have difficulty in accepting that it is purely thermal.  So while Europe may have "lost half its Alpine glacial ice", global warming wasn't necessarily the culprit.

I also knew that, while the globe may have warmed a bit, it was very difficult to say that a particular part of the globe had warmed - warming is patchy.  Just because the average global temperature is a bit up does not mean that the snow line is in retreat.

So I went to look for the facts, and found that Rutgers University has a dataset showing the weekly area of the extent of the snow in the northern hemisphere over the past 40-odd years:

Can you see the end of snow there? Seems to me variable but without any real trend in either the maximum or minimum. The minimum was a bit ragged until about 1972, but it was the start of the satellite era, so some missing data is understandable.

I cannot wait for this climate farce to end, so that I can return to trusting newspapers like the NYT.  Every time they run a piece bleating about climate change I have to check the tale, and invariably find the science is against them. 

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