Ski Scotland: another global warming paradox

Back in February 2009 Scotland was enjoying one of its best ski seasons for many years. Undeterred by this “anomaly” Alex Hill (then chief government advisor with the Met Office) declared:

“Scottish ski industry could disappear due to global warming”

Glenshee ski resort Scotland around 31 January 2014. Frequently cursed by marginal snow conditions it is now suffering from a severe dose of global warming.

The Telegraph reported in 2009:

Alex Hill, chief government advisor with the Met Office, said the amount of snow in the Scottish mountains had been decreasing for the last 40 years and there was no reason for the decline to stop.

He added: “Put it this way, I will not be investing in the ski-ing industry. Will there be a ski industry in Scotland in 50 years’ time? Very unlikely.”

An analysis of the past four decades shows that snowy days in the UK are down by a third, and the number of frosty days has declined by 26 per cent.

Mr Hill added that the current spell of wintry weather across the UK did not contradict theories of climate change.

The following winter of 2009/10 went on to be one of the coldest and snowiest for many years across much of northern Europe. And while I don’t have records to hand I believe that each winter since has provided great skiing. The scientific advice from Mr Hill is quite clear. Global warming will lead to less and less snow on Scottish mountains and the likely end of our skiing industry. Here are a few of the current snow reports:


Ongoing snow has blanketed the entire ski area with too much in places.


All runs have amazing amounts of snow.


Soft powdery snow everywhere, runs basically irrelevant as you can ski anywhere. Possible to ski to car park.

Nevis Range

There is really deep snow all over the mountain and runs are irrelevant as you can ski anywhere. The early squad will be in to work on the upper lifts but even the piste machines are struggling with the quantities of snow.

And so to the Scottish skiing paradox. All this snow has been dumped by the same southwesterly cyclones that have caused extensive flooding in England. The UK Met Office view as reported by the BBC is this:

Climate change is likely to be a factor in the extreme weather that has hit much of the UK in recent months, the Met Office’s chief scientist has said.

Dame Julia Slingo said the variable UK climate meant there was “no definitive answer” to what caused the storms.

“But all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change,” she added.

In Met Office double speak, climate change = anthropogneic global warming. Since the  high levels of snow fall in the Scottish Mountains are linked to the same weather systems, it is implicit in Dame Julia’s statement that high snow fall in Scotland this year is also linked to global warming,  the exact opposite of what Alex Hill told us just 5 years ago. As a tax paying, skiing, UK citizen I want to know if global warming is going to lead to more or less snow on Scottish mountains. Surely that is not too hard to answer.

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19 Responses to Ski Scotland: another global warming paradox

  1. ducdorleans says:

    “Surely that is not too hard to answer.” … very funny Euan … 🙂

    I’m not a skier anymore, but I’ve been to Scotland thrice for some golf … you lucky guys, you … who can ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon .. for skiing, we have to travel at least some 500km …

    twice in june, and – a miracle ! since there are only a few days per year without rain – only had a few minutes of that damn thing during those 2 weekends …

    and once around 1st May … 2 or 3 years ago in Gleneagles …

    boy, were we lucky b*st*rds !

    sunny, though rather chilly during the day (when playing …) … rain (amounting to snow 1 night on the ground and all 3 nights a few 100m up in the hills) during the evening and during the night … we have some lovely pictures of the surrounding hills, in snow, from the Queens course, which was closed the next 2 days, when we played Kings and PGA …

    it all amounts, for your snow and my golf, at those Scottish latitudes, to “odds” …

  2. Hugh Sharman says:

    Indeed Euan! In fact the word “extreme” is creeping into all the reports.

    Then there was that “extreme” rainy month of January in 1776, which I suppose may have been caused by witches. I was wondering “why 1776?” then I discovered at that 1776 was the first year that such records began. One may also speculate about the reasons for setting up the expensive and tedious business of making records at all. “Extreme” weather maybe?

    While we humans are amazingly innovative and brainy, we are also very pompous and self-centered species, as well. Attributing unusual natural phenomena to human activity is one of the constants of history. We seem offended by the idea that climate change was always there and always will be, long after the next cold spell culls us as efficiently as it appears to have done to the many successful species before us!

  3. wadosy says:

    i wonder if i’m understanding it correctly… if i am, we’re in trouble

    but the logic goes like this

    we’re fine as long as we keep burning fossil fuels, because the particulates emitted cause global dimming –“particulates” is a fancy phrase for “shade”

    so we keeping burning oil, gas and coal, keep putting another 2 ppm of co2 into the atmosphere every year… but that’s okay, because in the process, we’re making shade

    good deal

    what happens when we run out of oil, gas and coal? ..but that’s not a problem, is it? …because oil is formed deep in the eath, a continual process and we’ll never run out

    but if we do run out… well, that’s the problem, because the shade will settle out in a few years, but the co2 will stay for decades… and nobody knows when the methane will get loose

    well, not to worry… the hcemtrails will get us first

    Global Dimming

    • wadosy says:

      in the shire, bicycling tp the grocery store, your breath freezing in your whiskers… what a fine feeling on a bright sunny calm day in february ,,,the internet says it’s 20 below

      didnt feel that cold… flelt like maybe 0, but the weather station’s up at the airport… maybe it’s colder up there

      now, a year later, it’s 50 outside … so in the last year alone, we’ve warmed up 70 degrees

      my goodness!

  4. Roger Andrews says:

    “I want to know if global warming is going to lead to more or less snow on Scottish mountains. Surely that is not too hard to answer.”

    It isn’t at all hard to answer. The answer is “both”.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Roger, do you think that global warming may one day lead to a fall in sea level?


      PS it appears I’ve been banned from posting links on Linked In – pretty serious curtailment of publishing freedom 🙁 which I will be following up

      • Roger Andrews says:

        Do I think that global warming may one day lead to a fall in sea level? Certainly it may. With a few more winters of global-warming-induced Scottish snow the Caledonian Ice Sheet will begin to grow again, and then down she goes ….. 🙂

      • wadosy says:

        might get a little drop in sea level, then… “here comes the smut, martha!”

        london goes under… is that good? …but so soes edinburgh

        so does the israeli coastal plain… which may explain why it’s necessary to control russian oil exports and chinese consumption

        the only way you’re gonna do that is if you achieve “benevolent global hegemony” by killing off anyone who resists your benevolence

        so it all kinda hangs together

        if you’re nuts

      • wadosy says:

        we have to strive to keep everything in its own little box

        peak oil is not connected to global warming… we have no business making a connection there

        we most certainly have no business making a connection between peak oil, global warming, sea level rise and the mecons’ need for benevolent global hegemony

        and most important of all, we have to avoid connect all the above to PNAC’s need for a new pearl harobor

  5. Andy Hamilton says:

    Just to clarify things here Euan would you be so good as to define your precise position in terms of AGW.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Andy, good comment and question since I don’t know where you are coming from. I have looooong blogging experience and understand that asking questions is always the best way to go.

      My “precise position on AGW”? Well the IPCC precise position is 1.5 to 4˚C for ECS (if I recall correctly) which is really not precise at all. And so asking an individual trying to make honest sense out of a sea of data to be precise seems a little unfair. But I know where you are coming from. I’ve not read everything that Roy Spencer has written but I believe my position lies close to his. Let’s imagine that 50% of the warming 1980 to 2000 was down to natural causes. Then working through the sums that results in an enormous delevereging of forecast future warming due to GHG increases.

      My true position on current events is that 1950 to 2000 was an anomalous quiescent period in climate at our latitude that is now taken by many to be normal. We are now returning to normal which in the UK is much more turbulent and cold. I believe cyclical changes in solar activity have profound effect on Earth’s climate at several scales, many of which we have yet to observe. But in the realms of what we know, significant shifts in solar magnetic activity may be accompanied by shifts in spectral output (from the Sun) and it has long been known that reduced solar wind exposes Earth to more cosmic rays that may impact the atmosphere in a number of ways.

      Rainfall in England these last few weeks is not really anomalous. But in my life experience, the amount of snow fall on Scottish mountains from south westerly cyclones is. E

      • Andy Hamilton says:

        Thank you Euan. To not ‘beat about the bush’ then – you are of the view that human activities are NOT the principle driver of climate change.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          That’s a fair summary. My current view (and it does change) is that equilibrium climate sensitivity likely lies closer to 1 than 4˚C and that most of the weather fluctuations experienced by the UK in recent years are down to natural climate cycles, the most obvious ones being the recent shift in the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) combined with changes in the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation). Any competent Head of the UK Met office should first and foremost be making these points.

          But I also suspect there is a longer time scale cycle in operation that “modern Man” has yet to experience linked to The Sun entering what may become a deep slumber and have genuine concern that NW Europe is periodically exposed to extreme cold winter conditions that from an energy perspective we are ill equipped to cope with.

          A local Professor of Climatology sent me links to this yesterday, I found it quite informative:

          The Stratosphere And How It Affects The Weather

          And on the same site an animation of stratospheric temperatures – its worth winding it forward to the end:

  6. Kit P says:

    The correct answer is ‘get a life’. The deal is you only get one. For those who worry about what is going happen in a 100 years, I would suggest that you are wasting the time you have. There are a billion of so without clean drink water. My point is that you do not have to go very far to find real problems to solve for those who have an altruistic bent. I am an engineer not physiologist but I think humans have a compulsive need to fix what is not broken.

  7. lapogus says:


    Yes, there’s a lot of snow on the mountains just now. I gave my thoughts on this a few days I think on a Paul Homewood thread. I don’t think the amount of snow is that unusual, probably to be expected once in every 15-20 years. Indeed, iirc in 1993/94 Glencoe ski centre had around 3m of snow, and the same about 10 years ago?

    What’s interesting about this year is that the snow was all from westerly or south westerly winds, which mostly fell as rain low-level but were cold enough to plaster the mountains. In more recent years the big snow falls have mainly been as a result of north-easterlies, which have tended not to last that long due to warmer winds then coming from the south-west. I am thinking this winter is much more like winters typical of the 1960s and 70s. very. The jet stream track has evidently moved south, indicating a larger mass of cold air over the pole, and the consequently west winds are cold enough to turn their rain to snow over the hills. To me, this and the increased frequency of storms hitting the south of England, (and the severe cold over N. America) is more akin to a symptom of global cooling than warming. The recent weather (storms) in the south of England also fits in with this – Lamb noted that storms were more severe and frequent in the Little Ice Age.

    btw – there’s a Cafe Scientique talk in Dundee on March 18th which you may be interested in – “Glaciers in the Cairngorm Mountains: what cosmic rays tell us about climate 100, 1,000 and 10,000 years ago”, by Dr Martin Kirkbride. I am hoping to make it and will let the Bishop know also, in case he can come along. Send me an email if you want more details.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Iapogus, agree entirely. In most recent years snow has come from N and NE and then gets washed away by the south westerlies.This year’s pattern is different with snow lying above about 600m, dumped by the south westerlies. We have had no snow in Aberdeen this year but have caught the tail end of the storms and I’m pretty sick of all the rain. Day temperatures here have been 2 to 5˚C for weeks. There is no / little snow on the E Grampians. When the weather settles I need to get up to Glenshee to have a look, and a ski.

      You should check out these links.

      The Stratosphere And How It Affects The Weather;sess=

      And on the same site an animation of stratospheric temperatures – its worth winding it forward to the end:;sess=

      Interested to know what folks make of the forecast. It looks like the polar vortex could be heading our way.

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