Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover

Rutgers University is the curator of the NASA / NOAA northern hemisphere snow cover data base that can be accessed via their excellent web site Global Snow Lab. The left margin of the home page allows access to daily, weekly and monthly maps, monthly departure (anomaly map), snow and monthly anomalies (charts) and a data download link. Anomalies are based on a comparison with the 1981 to 2010 mean. All in all it is an impressive resource.

I have not come across this valuable resource before and seldom if ever hear or see the data discussed. Intuitively I feel that snow cover should be a sensitive indicator for climate change and global warming. Where I stay in NE Scotland is on the edge of the northern hemisphere snow belt. Sometimes, when it is cold, we will get a snowy winter, like this year. Other years we get no snow at all. Snow is a sensitive indicator for climate. So what does the data have to say? At first glance remarkably little (see chart below). The mid-winter peaks and late summer troughs have been remarkably stable for a planet rumoured to be melting under the burden of atmospheric CO2 and it is necessary to interrogate the data in some fine detail to tease out the interesting story that the data have to tell.

In summary, for the six months September to February snow area has actually been increasing 1967 to 2014! That has to be a surprise. And for the six months March to August snow area has been decreasing. The trends are generally very gradual and barely significant. But what the data show is that the northern hemisphere is getting snowier winters accompanied by more rapid melt in spring and summer. The latter is not surprising since we know that the lower troposphere is warming (at least we think we know that to be the case).

The annual cycle in N hemisphere snow cover varies between 3 million sq kms (August) and 50 million sq kms (January).  Note that the small negative gradient of the regression is biased by the missing summer data for 1968, 1969 and 1971 although beginning the regression in 1972, a small negative gradient remains.

I want to start with a few key observations from the 12 monthly charts shown below.

  1. January is normally but not always the month with highest snow cover. Occasionally February takes the prize.
  2. Scrolling down through the months from February the amount of snow cover reduces quickly as it melts reaching a minimum in August. August is always the low point.
  3. August is an important marker month that will differentiate between a warming and a cooling world. When August snow area begins to increase this would mark the beginning of a new era of snow accumulation.
  4. From September the snow area expands again. Winter comes early in some parts of the world.
  5. The data time series for each month are actually remarkably uniform and, as already has been mentioned for the six months September to February, snow area has been increasing 1967 to 2014. And for the six months March to August snow area has been decreasing with time.

To get a handle on what is actually going on it is necessary to look at the maps and in particular the anomaly maps that show where change is taking place (see below).

August

August is an important month and maps for August 1967 and 2014 are shown below. It is worth looking at 2014 first. There was 2.59 million sq kms of snow and of that, 2.17 was on Greenland. The rest of the northern hemisphere was effectively snow free; presumably the summer snow fields on mountain glaciers are too small to be picked up at this resolution. Compared with August 1967 it can be seen that the Rocky Mountains, the Alps, the Himalayas and Baffin and Ellesmere Islands in Northern Canada had August snow back in 1967 that now melts.

This shows up on the anomaly maps as positive anomalies on the mountains and islands in 1967 and negative anomalies in these same areas in 2014. Looking at the chart for August (above) it can be seen that there is a step down in 1982 and that August snow area has changed little since then.  One of the main reasons for the step down in 1982 was the loss of August snow on Baffin Island.

August snow maps

Click on maps and they will open in separate browser window that will ease comparison between pairs of maps.

August snow anomalies

January

A look at the January chart above shows that January snow cover has been consistently between 45 and 50 million square kms since 1967, though a regression shows a gradual increase with time. However, January 1967 ticks up while January 2014 ticks down and this gives a false picture on the anomaly maps displayed below. I therefore also include anomaly maps for 1968 and 2013 which reverses this random annual bias.

The whole of Russia and the whole of Canada tend to be covered in snow in January throughout the whole period since 1967. The anomalies show up in the areas south of 100% cover. In January 2013, positive anomalies dominated and were spread across the whole apron south of the 100% cover line most notably in the USA, west Europe, east China, Korea and Japan. In January 1968, the Rocky Mountains of the USA, the UK, Korea and Japan show up as negative anomalies. That year there was a strong positive anomaly over S Mongolia.

January snow maps

January anomaly maps

Snow and CO2

The figure below shows how there is no obvious connection between rising CO2 levels and declining snow cover. This of course does not prevent the IPCC from claiming that there is.

Looking in greater detail we see that the snow cycle and CO2 cycles are out of phase. While both are responding to seasonal change there is a greater time lag in the CO2 signal to the orbital / solar stimulus.

Discussion

Perhaps the most significant aspect about the trends in global snow cover since 1967 is how little it has actually changed. Even though the January maximum shows a positive gradient, it is effectively a flat line. The January anomaly distribution is effectively down to “random weather”.

The August snow minimum has also been invariant since 1982. Virtually all northern hemisphere snow melts apart from Greenland. The August minimum therefore may not be a sensitive indicator since it will only begin to recede again with a shrinkage of the Greenland ice cap. The more rapid spring and summer melt that is most pronounced in the May, June and July data are therefore perhaps the clearest sign of a warming world. The fact that the world is warming is not normally refuted. However, the extent to which it is warming, the causes and the seriousness of the consequences is a still a matter for debate.  I see little in this data to warrant panic. Folks who live in areas that used to have August snow on the ground in the Rocky and Himalayan Mountains may notice that it has receded over the last 40 years and be sensitised to climate change in a way that southern California has become sensitised to drought.

It is worth noting that high latitude northern hemisphere will have low to zero greenhouse effect in winter for two reasons. First, the amount of insolation is low (zero for periods N of the Arctic Circle) and second snow cover gives rise to high albedo reflecting what insolation there is straight back to space. This might explain why winter maximum snow cover is unaffected by an enhanced greenhouse effect while the summer melt may be. But equally, there may be other factors that explain the more rapid snow melt from what has become a marginally higher base level. For example, the active Sun in the period 1950 to 2000, or continued natural warming post Little Ice Age.

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69 Responses to Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover

  1. Joe Public says:

    Thanks for sharing your research, Euan.

    Fig 1 is interesting.

    Was there a reason for the first graph in ‘Snow and CO2’ having a start date of 2004, when Fig1 begins in 1967? Mauna Loa data appears to be available from at least the late 1950’s.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/Mauna_Loa_Carbon_Dioxide.png

    • Euan Mearns says:

      No reason for selecting 2004 as a start date Joe. Going back further would simply make the lack of relationship appear more extreme.

      • Willem Post says:

        Euan,

        1) The start date of satellite measurements would be a good point to start the graphs, in case accuracy is questioned.

        2) Your article mentioned snow cover, but what about snow cover thickness, which would indicate a measure of snow fall; there is melting between snow fall events during a season.

        Any quicker uncovering of the ground due to snow cover melting would occur sooner, if covers were not thick.

        In the US Rocky Mountains, snow cover thickness has been less, which means existing drinking reservoirs do not fill enough to satisfy increasing demands. More reservoirs are being built to capture more water that would otherwise be “lost”.

        In New England, during some winters, when in the middle of April the snow cover was about 1 meter thick on the meadows, April and May are colder than usual, crops are planted later, harvests are less due to the shorter growing season, farmers are complaining, prices of local foods are higher.

  2. NevenA says:

    This of course does not prevent the IPCC from claiming that there is.

    Where does the IPCC claim there is a connection between rising CO2 levels and declining snow cover?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/figure-spm-1.html

      The chart says “Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover” while in fact it is cherry picked data from March and April.

      • roberto says:

        Euan, just to make things fair to IPCC… you mention and link the 4th report, which is not the latest one… AR5, to be found here…

        http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_Chapter04_FINAL.pdf

        … searching for “snow cover” says… pqge 320:

        “Snow Cover
        Snow cover extent has decreased in the Northern Hemisphere,
        especially in spring (very high confidence). Satellite records indicate
        that over the period 1967–2012, annual mean snow cover extent
        decreased with statistical significance; the largest change, –53% [very
        likely, –40% to –66%], occurred in June. No months had statistically
        significant increases. Over the longer period, 1922–2012, data are
        available only for March and April, but these show a 7% [very likely,
        4.5% to 9.5%] decline and a strong negative [–0.76] correlation with
        March–April 40°N to 60°N land temperature. {4.5.2, 4.5.3}
        Station observations of snow, nearly all of which are in the
        Northern Hemisphere, generally indicate decreases in spring,
        especially at warmer locations (medium confidence). Results
        depend on station elevation, period of record, and variable measured
        (e.g., snow depth or duration of snow season), but in almost every
        study surveyed, a majority of stations showed decreasing trends, and
        stations at lower elevation or higher average temperature were the
        most liable to show decreases. In the Southern Hemisphere, evidence is
        too limited to conclude whether changes have occurred. {4.5.2, 4.5.3,
        Figures 4.19, 4.20, 4.21}”

        Is that correct? Difficult to say, due to the language chosen… can you tell what their conclusion is?… I can’t.

        R.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Roberto, It is quite simply clever prose and propaganda. I think everything they say here is probably accurate. But why don’t they simply show my Figure 1? And let the reader be mystified as to how they can produce prose like you report from it? It is nothing else than highly filtered pure propaganda masquerading as science.

          Snow cover extent has decreased in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in spring (very high confidence).

          My post says this so it must be true.

          Satellite records indicate that over the period 1967–2012, annual mean snow cover extent decreased with statistical significance; the largest change, –53% [very likely, –40% to –66%], occurred in June.

          My post more or less says this so it must be true. But come June, there is hardly any snow left. What does -53% mean?

          but in almost every study surveyed, a majority of stations showed decreasing trends, and stations at lower elevation or higher average temperature were the most liable to show decreases.

          Well I’m gob smacked. Who would have guessed that snow melts more quickly at lower elevations and at higher temperatures. I guess that Nobel prize was well deserved.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Euan, you missed this
            “No months had statistically significant increases.”

          • Euan Mearns says:

            That might be true. 6 individual months showed increases but none are likely to be statistically significant. The accelerated spring melt does outweigh increased snow cover – and just as well or we’d be covered in snow fields.

  3. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, rather than a warming Troposphere I think a better bet may be cloud cover, which allows the snow to be melted by the sun.

  4. Yvan Dutil says:

    Snow formation sweet spot is between -7 °C and 0 °C. Little snow is produced outside this temperature range, either because their is not enough humidity or because it is simply to hot. .

    • A. Webster says:

      Little snow? (Sorry, I’m chuckling to myself because of the impression this gives). Those might be pristine conditions for snowfall, but -7 is considered warm up here. We are currently in a blizzard at -18C and expecting snow all week, with highs of -12 to -20 C. So when you say “little snow is produced” you mean less than a foot of snowfall, right? Because there’s no such thing as “little snow” up here in northern Alberta where it’s only too cold for snow once it hits -40.

  5. I see you have picked up on the misleading cherry-picking in the IPCC SPM. They chose to plot March and April, when there is a decrease, but ignored the autumn and winter months when it is flat or increasing. I wrote a blog on this soon after the AR5 report came out. They did the same thing in the 2007 AR4 report.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Paul, thanks for this and the link. I hadn’t seen this or anything like it before and find it interesting to observe that “deniers” are able to draw the same independent conclusions from data that invariably differ from the conclusions drawn by the scientific consensus.

      It should be possible to design a set of 100 multiple choice questions aimed at analysing bias in folks interpretation of data.

    • roberto says:

      “They chose to plot March and April, when there is a decrease, but ignored the autumn and winter months when it is flat or increasing.”

      … they claim… page 358 of Ch.4 of the AR5 report…

      “The correlation between spring temperature and SCE (Figure 4.20)
      demonstrates that trends in spring SCE are linked to rising temperature,
      and for a well-understood reason: The spring snow cover-albedo
      feedback. This feedback contributes substantially to the hemispheric
      response to rising greenhouse gases and provides a useful test of global
      climate models (Fernandes et al., 2009) (see also Chapter 9).”

      So… it seems that they (IPCC) consider only the spring snow cover because of some alleged feedback mechanism between spring snow cover and albedo.

      Perplexing to say the least.

      R.

  6. Craig Crosby says:

    It seems to me that rising sea temps might increase humidity somewhat; that would lead to heavier snowfalls, if not more frequent. And a heavier fall would not melt as fast, hence remaining as snow cover for a longer period and accounting for the anomaly when temps are dropping (in the fall).

    I don’t understand why we are spending so much time on this matter. If IPCC is correct, then it is too late to avoid the consequences, and we have already shown no inclination to alter our life styles as a prudent species might, in order to forestall changes that may be quite inimical to our ecology – even if there is only a 5% chance of serious difficulty and < 1% chance that such would be dangerous to all life.

    And if there is really any debate, all we need to do to determine the winner is to see what happens as we blithely go forward where no man has gone before.

    The only up side to that is, if IPCC and the general scientific community is correct, the deniers won't even have to say, "Gee, I'm sorry. But we had a great time, didn't we?" Since there will be no one around to hear it.

    And if the deniers are correct, the response from the others would not be, "I'm sorry.." But rather, "Whew… glad you were right after all!"

    All in all, it is a Hell of a bet that we are making here.

    • A C Osborn says:

      So you would rather bet the improvements that the Industrial Revolution has brought us and also deny the same to the emerging nations on a 1% to 5% chance, when Adaption has not even been considered if sceptics are wrong.

      .
      Sorry it does not compute.

      I also note your use of “deniers” that says a lot.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Craig, I have just updated Blog Rules to include a section on commenting guidelines that you ought to read. Consider this a final warning.

      http://euanmearns.com/?p=454

      • Sam Taylor says:

        Euan,

        You might want to think about applying those standards to some of your posts. Continually alleging large scale corruption of various international bodies, calling the credibility of many professional researchers into question and throwing around derogatory epithets at anyone you don’t like is going to get a fair few people robustly disagreeing with you. Pots and kettles.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Sam, I want to start by informing other readers that you were placed on comment moderation a couple of weeks ago (I can’t recall what for) but quite quickly came off moderation because the comments you were posting were entirely reasonable. I also view this comment to be entirely reasonable.

          From my perspective I have created a hostile web space for myself to occupy, and at times am buffeted around so much that may provoke an unwarranted response. Commenters should not feel averse to bringing this to my attention – but of course how it is done is all important.

          Continually alleging large scale corruption of various international bodies, calling the credibility of many professional researchers into question

          Well I’m not aware of doing that but in the same breath can say that is part of the raison d’être of the blog. I am here to challenge the establishment and corrupt science. I have a post on the Petite et al 1999 paper that examines their scientific rigour that I have been reluctant to post since it questions their credibility. I do believe they are good and concerned scientists but unfortunately have allowed their concern, or the concern of the review system, to cloud their judgement.

          Anyway, if I break my own rules, it should be brought to my attention.

  7. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, sorry for the off topic, but you may be interested in some of the rather bizarre figures in the rueters article on the reduction in Solar Installations in Germany.
    This part I found really odd.OneI minute we see Solar able to supply nearly 100% for a sunny day and then the reality of 5.6% of overall demand.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/03/us-germany-renewables-idUSKBN0L719U20150203

    • Euan Mearns says:

      AC, the best place for comments like this is the most recent Blowout. Myself and Roger see all comments in a time ordered list. I automatically put links like this into the Blowout draft. But it is up to Roger which ones he selects.

    • Willem Post says:

      AC,

      Here are the official numbers, per below URL, of Geman solar installations:

      End…………….MW
      2008…………6120
      2009……….10566
      2010……….17943.678
      2011……….25428.912
      2012………33033.054
      2013………36337.803
      2014………38250.839 est
      http://www.germanenergyblog.de/?p=17440

      The big slowdown was all through 2013 and even more so during 2014.

      The ENERGIEWENDE-2 target is 2500 MW per year, and it will adjust subsidies, as needed, to achieve that.

      • roberto says:

        … and from the same blog:

        “VDMA/BWE: 58% Onshore Wind Power Growth in 2014 – Net Growth of 4,386 MW Way Above EEG 2014 2,500 MW Target”

        … so it seems that the Germans are choosing more and more the highly intermittent and poorly predictable wind over the ridicoulosly inefficient photovoltaics.

        R.

        • Willem Post says:

          Roberto,
          Germany’s wind CF is very low as well, about 0.2, and its offshore costs per kW are about $4500 per kW plus bringing the energy on shore, plus making grid changes on shore, plus the cost of balancing, plus the cost of changing the generator population to DO the balancing and other tasks.

          These costs would get higher as even more offshore wind turbines are installed, because more and more of the existing systems would need to be altered for accommodation.

          Only Germany can afford such a bravura effort, because it is rich, unlike most other countries

  8. Warmer climate = more atmospheric moisture = more snow in winter

    Warmer climate = faster snow melt in spring = more time without snow…

    …which leads to lower albedo = more warming.in the future

    Seems pretty straightforward science (except working out magnitudes of change, of course), and observations match what is expected.

    Skeptical Science article on snow cover

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Warmer climate = more atmospheric moisture = more snow in winter

      Seems pretty straightforward science

      Can you provide links to the empirical proof that Clausius–Clapeyron applies. And in addition what you say here is pretty well what I observe in my post from what is observable from the data so what is the point of your comment? You don’t have to malign my work my linking to Junk Skeptical Science. You are doing a PhD – why don’t you set yourself the ambition to become a proper scientist. The first step here is to actually discover what science is. Repeating ad nauseam what you want to believe is not science.

      • William says:

        I’d not read about the Clausius–Clapeyron relation until I looked it up just now, so I’ll not pretend to know about it. But the idea that warmer air holds more moisture is not in doubt (is it?). The idea that increased water vapor content results in increased snow or rain does not (to me) seem self evidently true. Is that your objection or have I misunderstood?

        On the SKS link, why do you call it “Junk”? I know SKS is unpopular in some circles but I’ve never seen a spoof site that sends up its content and explains where it is wrong. Maybe such sites exist and I’ve just not encountered them. In contrast, WUWT is widely ridiculed and has spawned various sites that point out its errors. Yet WUWT links are not censured here as far as I can tell.

      • Call me a masochist, but I enjoy your personal abuse of me Euan. Keep it up!

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Kit, I am not abusing you, I am trying to enlighten and educate you. You seem to think what you are involved in is science. It’s not. Until you realise that you and your whole creed are doomed to ultimately fail.

  9. Euan,

    this is quite a weak analysis, unfortunately. Snow cover (and snow fall) is affected by many factors, and with warming atmosphere one gets heavier snowfalls, while there is cold enough temperature (below 0°C, see your december plot). You definitely cannost (try to) show an annual CO2/snow cover correlation, as you point out a noise, not signal.

    Over the long-term (decades/centuries) of course there *IS* (or if you like, will be) a significant correlation between less snow cover and warming of the atmosphere.

    I am also sure there will be a lot of snow, especially in winter in 2100. Uh oh!

    Best,

    Alex

  10. Euan Mearns says:

    I’m going skiing today and don’t have time to respond to all these splendid comments, will do so in about 10 hours when I get back. But I’d note now that there is a commenting faction who believes that more winter snow is a symptom of a warming world. The opposite of this would be less snow was a symptom of a cooling world. And I’m also wondering if anyone has a snow mass chart. And I’m still waiting to see the chart that shows the average H2O content of Earth’s atmosphere has gone up.

    I showed a chart in my last post that global cloud had actually gone down.

    • Euan,

      “Winters are much drier than summers. Simply because cold temperatures means small water vapor content

      Constant relative humidity –> warmer climates have much more moisture! 7% increase per degree of warming

      More water vapor –> more water vapor greenhouse effect: Primary positive feedback to global warming

      Water vapor is a feedback to climate change, not a forcing of climate change
      Can’t change water vapor content directly: it responds to the global mean temperature.

      Water vapor content has been increasing (tropics only shown here)

      just a QUICK search … source here: http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~dargan/587/587_3.pdf

      Best,

      Alex

      • A C Osborn says:

        Alex, that may be the theory, but you obviously have not been paying attention to the Weather in the UK, our summers are drier than our winters, we have big storms and flooding caused by long periods of continuous rain during the Autumn to Spring period, just look at last year. Summer storms are short, sharp and electric by comparison.
        There are also serious fallacies about Warmer = Wetter.
        The first is that it totally depends on where it is warm, one of the things you see about the so called Global Temperature and Global Warming is the it is decidedly not “Global”.
        So a warm Equator or Southern Hemisphere may push up the “global” temperature, but will have absolutely no effect on the Snow in the Northern Hemisphere, because most of it is in the far northern hemisphere or at altitude.
        Also the latest supposed increases in temperature are due to the Sea/Ocean Temperatures, not atmospheric ones, so that also does not hold water (Pun intended).
        If you look at the decline in non winter snow it shows that it started with High Snow levels during the very Cold Seventies when there was much talk of an impending Ice Age and the snow slowly reduced during the 80/90s warming period. This emperical evidence says the theory is wrong.
        but that won’t stop the Climate people using it.

        • AC Osborn,

          local conditions don’t counter the global trend. Similarly, local cooling trend is NOT disproving global warming.

          Also warmer = wetter is simplification – it is better said – warmer = more extreme (i.e. wetter and drier at the same time).

          There is nothing like “supposed” temperature rise, there is only *measured* temperature rise.

          Global warming theory is not wrong, ust as theory of relativity is not wrong, but people talking about theories are …

          best,

          Alex

          • A C Osborn says:

            I have never seen so many assumptions in one post and all of them are wrong.

            How can you possibly say that local conditions don’t counter the Global Trend?
            Weather is local, if it is snowing in North America and Europe, it is not going to be snowing in Africa or Australia. So how can the so called global trend affect the Snow?

            Your definition of “Global” and mine and the Dictionary are not the same ie “pertaining to the whole world; worldwide; universal: ” If part of it, like the whole of the USA is cooling it cannot be global warming by definition.

            You obviously have not studied Climate History, all the most Severe weather extremes apart from heat waves were during cold climates. Even in the last decades, as it has warmed, the “extreme” weather has got less extreme, for instance Hurricanes and Tornado are les often and less powerful.

            When I state a “supposed” Temperature rise I actually mean a rising trend created by false Adjustments.

            If Global Warming Theory is correct why has it stopped warming, or are you one of those who deny the “pause” as warmists like to call it.

            Actual Raw Data Temperatues do not track CO2 at all so how can CO2 be controlling it?

          • Roberto says:

            ‘Global warming theory is not wrong, ust as theory of relativity is not wrong, but people talking about theories are …’

            Sorry, but can’t take this!… Einstein’s theory of relativity has been tested a thousand times with unprecedented levels of precision… you cannot possibly put it the same sentence as the AGW which claims a useless 300% ‘1.5 to 4.5 climate sensitivity’….
            R.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        What about average wind speed over the oceans?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Winters are much drier than summers. Simply because cold temperatures means small water vapor content

        I’m pretty sure where I stay this is utter rubbish. Will take me a while to muster the plots, but I’m pretty sure its rubbish for NW Europe.

        The Mediterranean countries get virtually all their rain in winter. I think that’s probably true for the deserts as well. I suspect also for the Arctic where they get shed loads of summer sunshine and loads of snow in winter.

        Thanks for the quote that may make a good headline for a post.

        • A C Osborn says:

          Euan, check out Paul Homewood for historic UK weather analysis, he has been shredding UK Met Office pronouncements for a while now.

    • “there is a commenting faction who believes that more winter snow is a symptom of a warming world”.

      I’m surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the famous statements of UEA climate scientist David Viner in March 2000:

      However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

      “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Thanks for this quote Paul. Its all makey uppy stuffy that Greens call science. Infinitely flexible rules that invariably lead to the conclusion that CO2 is causing climate to change that’s not.

        PS had a great day skiing in Glenshee which proves AGW is a hoax 😉

    • A. Webster says:

      I would be interested in knowing how this data relates to total or accumulative snow fall. I ask because, growing up in the Sierra Nevadas and having spent much of my adult life in the Rockies and now living in northern Alberta, I find that it doesn’t snow nearly as much as it used to (in all of these places). I’m talking about several feet accumulative compared to snowing only a few times each season. There is definitely less total snowfall (without any charts to prove this, just ask all the locals), so I’m wondering if it’s possible to explain why the surface area of snowfall is increasing while experiencing a reduction in accumulative snowfall?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        A. Webster, thanks for your contributions. So we cannot admit anecdotal evidence of one new commenter as proof. But what you have to say is interesting and echoes what Willem Post said in one of the earliest comments. The satellite data show areal extent of snow and reveals nothing directly about snow depth. I am inclined to believe that areal extent and depth should be correlated. But perhaps not. The warmest Greens here all want to believe that the accelerated spring and summer melts is down to global warming but present no evidence to support this. They simply repeat phrases they learn in Green School, like warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, therefore more snow followed by more rapid melt.

        Careful scientists, which they are not, would of course consider the possibility of less deep snow fall causing it to thin and disappear earlier in the season. This is of course speculation. But its a valid theory that requires to be disproven before the Green Warmists arguments can be leant any credence at all.

        What’s more, the Green Warmists models in the guise of the IPCC have been caught out by this before in not understanding that Arctic Sea Ice had variable thickness not included in their models. If these were smart scientists, they would have learned a lesson.

        • Euan,

          If these were smart scientists…

          this discussion starts to be VERY unconstructive and is fast approaching the level of some hard-core climate deniers. That is a pitty, since you usualy bring good insights into energy issues.

          Best,

          Alex

        • A. Webster says:

          That makes sense, we had an unusually warm January, losing almost a foot of snow depth, but ground was still mostly covered in snow, something that might go unnoticed on the satellite data. Thanks for taking the time to answer.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Your Snow was falling in the Eastern USA, Canada, the Far east including Japan, Korea and Tawain and now of course in quite a bit of Europe and especially Spain.
            That is why I argued that Climate is not “Global” it moves around at the will of Winds Ocean Currents and other controlling features.

  11. Retired Dave says:

    I agree with Euan –

    The problem I see with most settled science advocates is the ability to ignore anything that doesn’t fit with the AGW theory. It seems that anything unfortunate like “the pause” gets repudiated for a decade, (in fact even 4 years ago the UKMO said it didn’t exist) then it gets admitted to ,when it can’t be blocked out any longer. Then even though it is the opposite of what was predicted they say that it was what we predicted OR it is due to natural variability, which it might be. BUT natural variability didn’t exist when temps were rising, it was all due to CO2. Then we get 60+ excuses for the pause which if all were true we would be in the next glacial.

    We have seen it with Antarctic sea Ice – 13 months ago “scientists” who went to prove how it was all melting like their model said, got stuck in it miles from where it was a century ago. Then it dawned and so we now have – well increasing Antarctic sea ice is what we would have expected.

    We have seen it with NH winters – H/T to Paul Matthews for David Viner’s March 2000 prediction above – now the polar vortex and cold NH winters are due to global warming.

    It is all just epicycles and phlogiston.

    The next thing will be Arctic sea ice, which was predicted to have gone in Summer by now, but somehow it is still there and going back towards the satellite era mean – it is being ignored at the moment and the credulous MSM are, as always, still printing catastrophic melting stories usually showing a polar bear – how long before we are told that increasing Arctic sea ice and increasing polar bear numbers are signs of Global Warming.

    I am not suggesting that AGW theory is completely wrong, but a scientist should always be sceptical and there is no proof yet that CO2 is a Major driver of our climate. It remains a theory and some clever computer models which have not been right yet. The constant fiddling with the temperature record, always in the same slant, leads one to further scepticism.

  12. Pingback: Green Thinking – is it science? | Energy Matters

  13. toby52 says:

    I also monitor the snow cover variable, and have some problems with the post.

    Technically, the charts “hide the data in the axis” – they should be rescaled to show the trends (or lack of trends) better.

    To me, the December cover minus June cover variable is the critical one. Since global warming will put more water vapour in the air, that will increase or maintain precipitation and snow cover in cold months.

    The annual melt however should show the global warming signature, if temperature rise, early spring and warmer summers are really happening. I find the annual melt is greater than the historic median – enough times to suggest a trend of change of mean value consistent with climate change.

    http://i57.tinypic.com/2z8ncc1.jpg

    PS Not a climate scientist, just a “grunt” statistician in the telecommunications industry.

  14. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Snow cover is important in its relationship to albedo. There is little or no sun in the winter. Winter snow cover has little effect on albedo.

    The months of interest are then going to be spring and summer. Those months all show marked declines – don’t they? The charts you display show large declines in spring and summer – though you use the pseudoskeptic trick of using a very large scale to hide the decline.

    Do you think the fact you’ve just ‘discovered’ the Rutgers site maybe speaks to your ignorance on the subject?

    You have the facts right in front of you – but even superficial analysis seems to elude you. I suspect there’s little point in trying to go more in-depth into the topic; i.e., how do these changes effect atmospheric circulation patterns?

    Go read Judah Cohen, Screen & Simmonds, or Jennifer Francis – you know, the scientists who actually *know* and study the topic. Perhaps you’ll learn something. Though I doubt it.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Kevin, you may not be surprised to know, but I have placed you on comment moderation.

      But what the data show is that the northern hemisphere is getting snowier winters accompanied by more rapid melt in spring and summer. The latter is not surprising since we know that the lower troposphere is warming

      and

      The data time series for each month are actually remarkably uniform and, as already has been mentioned for the six months September to February, snow area has been increasing 1967 to 2014. And for the six months March to August snow area has been decreasing with time.

      and

      First, the amount of insolation is low (zero for periods N of the Arctic Circle) and second snow cover gives rise to high albedo reflecting what insolation there is straight back to space. This might explain why winter maximum snow cover is unaffected by an enhanced greenhouse effect while the summer melt may be.

      We can have a discussion about scaling. I made two sets of charts, one set with expanded but then necessarily variable Y axis scales. I think the constant scaling is best. The earlier loss of spring time snow is still clearly visible. And what’s more, rather than trying to hide the decline it “hides” the increases Sep to Feb at the same scale. I really don’t know what your trouble is.

      Since you judge me to be ignorant must mean that you are enlightened. I would be interested to know the official explanation for the more rapid spring melt. Is it due to higher temperatures or less snow / snow depth?

      Thanks for the references. Any chance you can give full references?

      As a boy I recall seeing large summer snow fields on the N facing slopes of the Scottish mountains. I was told “had always been there” relics of the Little Ice Age. 1990s and 2000s we got little winter snow fall and these “permanent” snow fields disappeared. I believe the country was probably snow free in August. But the last few years the winter snows have returned and there are signs of accumulation once again.

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