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View Full Version : Isn't snow a piece of the climate change puzzle?


gitfiddle
02-10-2010, 11:11 AM
Before I even ask my question, I'd just like to clarify that I am NOT asking whether or not the abnormal snowfall in the mid-Atlantic is PROOF of (man made) climate change. Rather, I am positing that folks like Sen. Demint is displaying his lack of understanding of the concept of climate change when he suggests that the snow pummeling DC right now is evidence that climate change is a farce.

(Let's leave aside that this past decade was the hottest on record (http://news.discovery.com/earth/warmest-decade-climate.html) or that while this winter has been unusually cold in North America, temperatures elsewhere have been abnormally warm (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/get-file.php?report=global&file=map-blended-mntp&year=2009&month=9&ext=gif). I'm asking specifically about snow.)

What I am asking is, haven't many climate studies said that climate change would likely cause exactly what is now happening in DC? Isn't the argument not that temperatures everywhere will rise, but rather that climate patterns will shift, bringing drought to places that are usually wet, floods to places that are usually manageable, and, yes, snow to places that don't usually experience it? Are there any studies that specifically mention increased snowfall on the eastern US?

aceplace57
02-10-2010, 11:22 AM
It's certainly making Al Gore look foolish. ;)
I love this quote.
It'll Snow in DC Until Al Gore Cries "Uncle": Sen. DeMint
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/politics/Itll-Keep-Snowing-in-DC-Until-Al-Gore-Cries-Uncle-Sen-DeMint-84014232.html

Whack-a-Mole
02-10-2010, 11:25 AM
Yes Demint is an idiot.

Yes there can be more snow with a warmer climate. May seem counter intuitive but it is a complex system.

Skeptics on the subject of global warming would point to the heavy amount of snowfall Chicago has experienced this year.

However, they would be wrong, according to a sampling of scientific opinion.

Experts caution that there may be more winters like this, where snowfall has so far nearly doubled the norm. But that would be only until it gets too hot to snow, they added.

“l n the simulations I’ve analyzed, you can get some quite big blizzards up until the year 2040,” said Raymond Pierrehumbert, professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago. “But between 2040 and 2080, it starts to get too warm to have much snow at all and it gradually sort of peters out.”

Climatologists say snowfall is more difficult to predict than rain because it depends on a broader range of factors, such as atmospheric temperature and the la nina phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. What they do agree on, however, is that warmer atmospheres can hold more precipitation.

SOURCE: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=79547

aceplace57
02-10-2010, 11:30 AM
I've studied weather history. There was a major cool down in Europe about 600 years ago.
Environmental upheavals linked to sever climate variability characterised the period from 1300 to 1400.
All tree ring series in northern Europe show a decline in growth rates, indicating an adverse climatic change. This marked the transition from a “Medieval Warm Period” to the “Little Ice Age” when temperatures were on average 1.5 degrees Celsius lower than before and with greater seasonal variation.
http://www.eh-resources.org/timeline/timeline_me.html

Major shifts in the weather isn't new. The link above summarizes several shifts in the past. This was long before the modern world became a poster child of the global warming movement.

Squink
02-10-2010, 11:40 AM
Yes there can be more snow with a warmer climate. May seem counter intuitive but it is a complex system.
You get fingers of warm moist air coming up from the south, and fingers of cold dry stuff coming down from the north. Warm air holds more water, so if the stuff coming up from the south is warmer than usual, you get more water than usual. As long as the cold fingers that moist air mixes with are below freezing, you get snow. More snow than usual, even if the cold fingers aren't quite as cold as usual.
The east coast will get less snow only when the cold fronts coming down from the arctic have temperatures above freezing by the time they get to the east coast. The world isn't hot enough for that to be common in winter yet.

RedSwinglineOne
02-10-2010, 12:04 PM
The key term should be 'climate change'.
Here in California, we have mild weather due in part to warm air coming from the Pacific Ocean. The water is (relatively) warm because of currents coming north from near the equator. If 'global warming' were to cause a change in those currents, we could experience weather more like the east coast.
Global warming would lead to 'local cooling'.

md2000
02-10-2010, 12:09 PM
The worst weather phenomonon recently was the ice storm in the Ottawa-Montreal area about 10 years ago. In damage done, it probably cost more than Katrina. Just because water freezes, does not mean there is no global warming. Even Florida gets freezing rain or snow every few years. That they get some in DC is no surpise. The amount depends on climate factors.

OTOH, the Little Ice Age, which stranded the vikings in Iceland and gave much of Europe bad winters has not been explained. Skating on the Thames (try that today) or the canals of Holland was common. Washington escaped the British dragging his cannons across the Hudson. The glaciers of south island New Zealand extended almost to the sea back then. This weather all changed long before we began creating greenhouse gasses on a modern scale, and coincided with a disappearance of the sunspots (Maunder Minimum). 14,000 years ago, there was 1,000 feet of ice or more across North America.

So climates change, with or without or assistance. In fact the last few years the temperatures have not been "rising". The link above is cherry-picking. Where I live, September was abnormally hot, warmer than July - which was abnormally cold. In a place that it is not unusual to see 100C a few days in the summer, we barely broke 80C all summer.

We don't know why the climate changes without our help, it's probably not a good idea to change it for the worse, or do things that we think might have that effect. The problem with the congressman is that people who do not understand science or history should not pretend they know all the answers.

gitfiddle
02-10-2010, 12:16 PM
The link above is cherry-picking.

Which one?

Ludovic
02-10-2010, 12:21 PM
Which one?The one that says temperatures are rising. We know it is not legitimate because if it said temperatures are decreasing, it would be a valid cite.

gitfiddle
02-10-2010, 12:28 PM
The one that says temperatures are rising. We know it is not legitimate because if it said temperatures are decreasing, it would be a valid cite.

You mean the one that says the past decade was the hottest on record?

Huerta88
02-10-2010, 12:42 PM
Snow is also a part of any climate fluctuation due to the snow/ice albedo feedback phenomenon. If snow melts, less sunlight is reflected into space, and more snow can melt because of the higher radiation absorption. If snowcover/ice are widespread, more radiation bounces into space and local temperatures stay cooler, allowing more snow/ice to form.

I haven't researched whether snow albedo feedback is happening (1) this year or (2) more realistically, the recent past, in either direction.

gitfiddle
02-10-2010, 12:50 PM
Snow is also a part of any climate fluctuation due to the snow/ice albedo feedback phenomenon. If snow melts, less sunlight is reflected into space, and more snow can melt because of the higher radiation absorption. If snowcover/ice are widespread, more radiation bounces into space and local temperatures stay cooler, allowing more snow/ice to form.

I haven't researched whether snow albedo feedback is happening (1) this year or (2) more realistically, the recent past, in either direction.

Is this (http://news.discovery.com/earth/snow-cover-shrinking-maps.html) the kind of thing you're talking about?

Anne Neville
02-10-2010, 12:52 PM
You can say your climate models tend to generate more or stronger storms as the surfaces of the oceans get warmer. You can't point to one snowstorm, hurricane, or what have you and say "global warming caused this storm" or "this storm proves there is no global warming". Climate and weather are just not that simple. There is data that could falsify the hypothesis of global warming, but one snowstorm, no matter how severe, is not it.

People like to look for simple answers to complex problems. That's why we have superstitions.

So climates change, with or without or assistance.

The fact that climates can change without assistance from humans doesn't imply that climates can't also change as a result of something humans do. That's like arguing that, because something can fall off a table without someone pushing it, therefore it won't fall if you do push it off the table.

Sam Stone
02-10-2010, 12:53 PM
A better answer is that ANY short-term weather observation has nothing to do with global warming, because global warming is a very long-term climate trend that is totally swamped by daily, monthly, annual, or even decadal variance.

Anyone who tells you that any specific weather pattern is the result of global warming - or that it's proof global warming doesn't exist - is just spinning you.

Seriously - the IPCC is talking about a trend of perhaps 1.2 - 6 degrees in a century. If global warming exists as they predict, and even at the high end of the scale, we're talking about .6 degrees per decade of 'signal'. That's .06 degrees per year. Annual temperature variance is several orders of magnitude greater than that.

Both sides of the debate spin this. Notice that when the data showed that the last decade was apparently cooling or staying flat, all the global warming opponents trumpeted this as proof that it didn't exist, while all the supporters were saying, "Now wait a minute - the variance is so large that a decade of cooling doesn't prove a thing". But now that the date is showing potential warming, those same people are trotting out the 'warmest decade' claims as if they DO prove something, and the other side is saying it's just variance. The roles have reversed.

Squink
02-10-2010, 01:31 PM
Anyone who tells you that any specific weather pattern is the result of global warming - or that it's proof global warming doesn't exist - is just spinning you.The only exception to that is a one-off catastrophic change that's completely beyond normal climactic bounds, such as the storm pattern in 'The Day After Tomorrow'.
30 inches of snow is unusual for the DC area, and certainly not inconsistent with the possibility with the climate changing, but it's not inconsistent with climate as usual either.

Cat Whisperer
02-10-2010, 01:36 PM
As alluded to already, climate is not weather. Climate "encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and numerous other meteorological elements in a given region over long periods of time." Weather is what hits you when you walk out your front door.

Anne Neville
02-10-2010, 01:44 PM
The only exception to that is a one-off catastrophic change that's completely beyond normal climactic bounds, such as the storm pattern in 'The Day After Tomorrow'.

The storm pattern in 'The Day After Tomorrow' is completely beyond the normal bounds of the laws of physics (http://www.wunderground.com/education/thedayafter.asp), let alone normal climate.

The Other Waldo Pepper
02-10-2010, 01:50 PM
You can't point to one snowstorm, hurricane, or what have you and say "global warming caused this storm" or "this storm proves there is no global warming". Climate and weather are just not that simple. There is data that could falsify the hypothesis of global warming, but one snowstorm, no matter how severe, is not it.

What is?

gitfiddle
02-10-2010, 02:08 PM
It appears that this thread is getting off track. Remember, the question is just simply if snow like that which is being experienced on the east coast is concordant with predictions by climatologists as to the possible effects of climate change.

I'm not interested in definitively proving or disproving (man made) climate change.

md2000
02-10-2010, 02:11 PM
The fact that climates can change without assistance from humans doesn't imply that climates can't also change as a result of something humans do. That's like arguing that, because something can fall off a table without someone pushing it, therefore it won't fall if you do push it off the table.

Pretyy much what I said. Climate can change with or without our help. That doesn't mean we should ignore the possibility that dumping CO2 in the air and using up all our fossil fuel could also cause problems.


The link to September temperatures - http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/get-file.php?report=global&file=map-blended-mntp&year=2009&month=9&ext=gif - is cherrypicking. An abnormally hot September in an abnormally cool year proves nothing.:
(Let's leave aside that this past decade was the hottest on record or that while this winter has been unusually cold in North America, temperatures elsewhere have been abnormally warm. I'm asking specifically about snow.)
The sentence is inacurate.

Yes, a single bad storm or bad month or bad year proves nothing. Ditto for good ones. The trend has been that the last few years (3 or 4) have actually been cooler than before. How long do we wait to determine it is a real trend? 5 years? a decade? a generation? How many exceptions are allowed? It's all hand-waving.

gitfiddle
02-10-2010, 02:23 PM
The link to September temperatures - http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/get-file.php?report=global&file=map-blended-mntp&year=2009&month=9&ext=gif - is cherrypicking. An abnormally hot September in an abnormally cool year proves nothing.:
(Let's leave aside that this past decade was the hottest on record or that while this winter has been unusually cold in North America, temperatures elsewhere have been abnormally warm. I'm asking specifically about snow.)
The sentence is inacurate.


The fact that temperatures are above normal in other places does disprove the claims by folks who point to seemingly cooler than usual temperatures as proof that climate change is a hoax.

I didn't mention it to say that that those two facts alone prove or disprove climate change. If I had, it certainly would be cherry picking.

jjimm
02-10-2010, 02:41 PM
It appears that this thread is getting off track. Remember, the question is just simply if snow like that which is being experienced on the east coast is concordant with predictions by climatologists as to the possible effects of climate change.It's certainly believed to be true in the case of Northern Europe, since climate change could alter the Gulf Stream, turning the UK's temperate climate into something similar to that of Iceland. So while not applicable to the continental US, increased snowfall in spot areas is certainly part of the puzzle. BBC Weather Centre (http://www.bbc.co.uk/climate/impact/gulf_stream.shtml):The Gulf Stream brings warmth to the UK and north-west Europe and is the reason we have mild winters. Without this steady stream of warmth the British Isles winters are estimated to be more than 5C cooler, bringing the average December temperature in London to about 2C.

At the end of the last Ice Age, when the ice sheet covering North America melted, the sudden increase in fresh water reduced the salinity of the north Atlantic surface water and therefore less 'dense water' sank and moved towards the equator. This reduced, or even shut-down completely, the warm Gulf Stream. Temperatures in north-west Europe fell by 5C in just a few decades.

Recent observations have shown that since 1950 there has been a decrease of 20% in the flow of cold water in the Faeroe Bank channel between Greenland and Scotland. This is one source of cold dense water that drives the density-based component of the Gulf Stream. There may be an increase in flow from other cold water sources, but, if not, it could be the start of the slow down of the Gulf Stream.

The Other Waldo Pepper
02-10-2010, 02:50 PM
It appears that this thread is getting off track. Remember, the question is just simply if snow like that which is being experienced on the east coast is concordant with predictions by climatologists as to the possible effects of climate change.

I'm not interested in definitively proving or disproving (man made) climate change.

I'm not interested in a prolonged hijack; I simply note that saying "snow like that which is being experienced on the east coast is concordant with predictions" would pack a little more explanatory punch if one went on to mention what snow-related effects aren't.

Half the snow? Double the snow? No snow? Is any type of snow-related activity capable of proving or disproving it? If not, then we'd have a much more striking answer to the OP's question: this latest snow has no bearing on AGW claims, because no amount of snow has bearing on AGW claims. Or, in the alternative: this latest snow has no bearing on AGW claims, because it would need to be X and Y or Z to be relevant.

That strikes me as pure relevance. If it constitutes a hijack, I'll of course drop it.

Cat Whisperer
02-10-2010, 02:57 PM
I think the best answer we can come up with at this point is that the snow in the US in the winter of 2009-2010 is another data point in the broader picture. You have a snowier winter one place, you have a less snowy winter in another place; you can't extrapolated to the bigger picture based solely on either of those contradictory data points.

gitfiddle
02-10-2010, 03:02 PM
I think the best answer we can come up with at this point is that the snow in the US in the winter of 2009-2010 is another data point in the broader picture. You have a snowier winter one place, you have a less snowy winter in another place; you can't extrapolated to the bigger picture based solely on either of those contradictory data points.

Again, I'm not asking what this snow means. I'm asking if climatologists predicted abnormal snowfall as part of, to use Tom Friedman's term, "global weirding." Just as many have warned of sea level rises, did they suggest record snow fall (in the eastern US) might also be an effect of climate change.

Whack-a-Mole
02-10-2010, 03:09 PM
Again, I'm not asking what this snow means. I'm asking if climatologists predicted abnormal snowfall as part of, to use Tom Friedman's term, "global weirding." Just as many have warned of sea level rises, did they suggest record snow fall (in the eastern US) might also be an effect of climate change.

I gave you your definitive answer in Post #3.

Yes, big snow storms are consistent with global warming models...for awhile anyway (at some point it'd get too warm to snow but we are not there yet).

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