Another amazingly snowy winter for the U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:18 PM GMT on February 11, 2011

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As northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas dig out from the two feet of snow dumped this winter's latest epic snowstorm, it's time to summarize how remarkable the snows of the past two winters have been. So far this winter, the Northeast U.S. has seen three Category 3 (major) or higher snow storms on the Northeast Snowfall Impact (NESIS) scale. This scale, which rates Northeast snowstorms by the area affected by the snowstorm, the amount of snow, and the number of people living in the path of the storm, runs from Category 1 (Notable) to Category 5 (Crippling.) This puts the winter of 2010 - 2011 in a tie for first place with the winters of 2009 - 2010 and 1960 - 1961 for most major Northeast snowstorms. All three of these winters had an extreme configuration of surface pressures over the Arctic and North Atlantic referred to as a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Arctic Oscillation (AO). In this situation, the band of winds that circles the North Pole weakens, allowing cold air to spill southwards into the mid-latitudes.

In the past twelve months, we've had six major Category 3 or stronger storms on the NESIS scale, by far the most major snowstorms in a 12-month period in the historical record. Going back to 1956, only one 12-month period had as many as four major snowstorms--during 1960 - 1961. New York City has seen three of its top-ten snowstorms and the two snowiest months in its 142-year history during the past 12 months--February 2010 (36.9") and January 2011 (36.0"). Philadelphia has seen four of its top-ten snowstorm in history the past two winters. The Midwest has not been left out of the action this year, either--the Groundhog's Day blizzard nailed Chicago with its 3rd biggest snowstorm on record. According to the National Climatic Data Center, December 2010 saw the 7th greatest U.S. snow extent for the month in the 45-year record, and January 2011 the 5th most. December 2009 had the greatest snow extent for the month in the 45-year record, January 2010 the 6th most, and February 2010 the 3rd most. Clearly, the snows of the past two winters in the U.S. have been truly extraordinary.


Figure 1. The six major Category 3 Northeast snowstorms of the past twelve months. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

A cold January in the U.S.
January 2011 was the coldest January in the contiguous U.S. since 1994, according to the National Climatic Data Center, and ranked as the 37th coldest January in the 117-year record. Despite the heavy snows in the Northeast U.S., January was the 9th driest January since 1895. This was largely due to the fact that the Desert Southwest was very dry, with New Mexico recording its driest January, and Arizona and Nevada their second driest.

A cold and record snowy winter (yet again!) in the U.S. does not prove or disprove the existence of climate change or global warming, as we must instead focus on global temperatures averaged over decades. Globally, January 2011 was the 11th warmest since 1880, but tied for the second coolest January of the past decade, according to NASA. NOAA has not yet released their stats for January. The cool-down in global temperatures since November 2010, which was the warmest November in the historical record, is largely due to the temporary cooling effect of the strong La Niña event occurring in the Eastern Pacific. This event has cooled a large portion of the surface waters in the Pacific, leading to a cooler global temperature.

Some posts of interest I've done on snow and climate change over the past year:

Hot Arctic-Cold Continents Pattern is back (December 2010)
The future of intense winter storms (March 2010)
Heavy snowfall in a warming world (February 2010)

Have a great weekend, everyone, and enjoy the coming warm-up, those of you in the eastern 2/3 of the country!

Jeff Masters

Snow and icicle sun (emilinetdd)
Snow and icicle sun
Cardinal City (dypepper)
Another exciting day for me, shooting the Cardinals in the Snow!
Cardinal City

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Quoting RecordSeason:
You could at least try sticking to data from periods where, oh I don't know, data actually existed...


That's exactly your problem RecordSeason, data does exist.

These graphs aren't created out of nothing.
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I'm a scientist, and I'll tell you this: You can fit a curve to anything. And whatever trend is underway is likely to continue for a while, so any model based on recent occurrences is likely to do a good job of predicting near term changes. Long term in terms of climate is hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions. Rapid temperature changes like the one we've seen over the last century are COMMON in the history of the earth's climate. There isn't any clear evidence that this is any different from some of the historical swings in temperature.

That being said, some very smart people have come up with a solid theory that shows humans COULD be responsible for this. Moreover, excess CO2 will cause disruption of some marine ecosystems due to ocean acidification. Last but not least, oil is a finite resource, and what is left is getting harder and more expensive to get out of the ground. Prudence dictates that we must find another source of cheap energy, soon.
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


Zeker.

Er was spreek van "kumbaya" vandaag op het blog. Voor me, "kom bij ons" was een kristilijke zong, niet heiden zoals een gaia.



Dat was Patrap. Ik geloof dat hij probeerde een vrede naar de blog te brengen. Kan deze kinderen lezen?

Very chilly here in Ft. Lauderdale today. Wish we had some Global Warming down here. How is the weather by you?
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Quoting Seastep:


So zero, same as me, except I'm giving +/-0.45C vs. your +/-1.67C.

+/-1.67C is hard to come by in the temperature record for a 1000 year period, let alone 40.


Okay, the journal of applied sadistics (or whatever... it is late) article to which I have linked repeatedly.

I like big error bars since there are undiscovered things. The current error bars are for known things in the IPCC assessment...

both sides have a point...

there are things that we don't know that can make it worse...

there are things that we don't know that can make it better....

being an optimist i installed solar pv.

the alarmist option is hopeless since China will use coal to develop
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


Do we really know the absorption mechanisms? The constant CO2 (atmospheric) case has not been disproved as far as I know (granted unlikely).

Okay, 1.2 C from your graph.

I like to give big error bars.

0F is the deniers and 4F is the alarmists so I will respect both opinions.


The constant CO2 control run is funny. It still shows an increase, and an unrealistically constant slope. It makes one wonder how much of the natural climate cycles those models are really modelling well.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
944. JRRP
Quoting TomTaylor:
Pic taken from MichaelSTL...



If anyone was curious about that cool sst spot right off the coast of Central America (or maybe the southern border of Mexico), it's caused by Tehuano_winds, causing upwelling.

The cimss satellite blog had a cool entry about it today:

http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/archives/dat e/2011/02/10


thanks
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Quoting Seastep:


Alarmists are +7.2F (+4C)


I've never listened to alarmists... my experience with solar and smart meters is the opposite of what is promised on repower america (but i knew that was wrong before going into the solar)
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Quoting Neapolitan:
While it's possible that certain parts of Alaska are indeed cooler now than they were 3,000 years ago, there are a lot of problems being caused by the current warming. Take this article published just today:

Climate change keenly felt in Alaska's national parks

"Thawing permafrost is triggering mudslides onto a key road traveled by busloads of sightseers. Tall bushes newly sprouted on the tundra are blocking panoramic views. And glaciers are receding from convenient viewing areas, while their rapid summer melt poses new flood risks. These are just a few of the ways that a rapidly warming climate is reshaping Denali, Kenai Fjords and other national parks comprising the crown jewels of Alaska's heritage as America's last frontier.

"Since the mid-1970s, Alaska has warmed at three times the rate of the Lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And with nearly two-thirds of U.S. national parkland located in Alaska, the issue of climate change is especially pressing there, officials say. In some far northern parks such as Gates of the Arctic, average temperatures are expected to shift in coming years from below freezing to above freezing, crossing a crucial threshold, said Bob Winfree, Alaska science adviser for the Park Service. 'The effects of melting ice and thawing permafrost, I think, will be major,' Winfree said."

Article

Just more signs of a warming planet (if you're of a scientific mind, that is; if you're not, they're just signs of a socialist/communist plot to raise taxes while depriving you of your right to drive a car that gets two miles a gallon. Or something like that).


Of course, that article led to this one:

Tracks of two prehistoric birds found in Alaska

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska | Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:57pm GMT

(Reuters) - Fossilized tracks from two newly discovered prehistoric birds have been found in Alaska's Denali National Park, according to findings released by an expert in Arctic paleontology.

The previously unknown birds were among a wide variety of birds that left fossilized tracks in Denali, Tony Fiorillo, a paleontologist and curator at the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, told Reuters in an interview.

"The skies over Denali were a pretty busy place," he said.

The birds are considered new species and now have names given by Fiorillo and his team -- "Magnoavipes denaliensis," incorporating the park's name for a bird that left especially large tracks, and "Gruipeda vegrandiunis," roughly translating to "tiny one," for a bird that left small tracks.

Fiorillo, lead researcher on the project, published his findings in the current issue of the Journal of Systematic Paleontology. Previous research determined that pterosaurs -- flying winged reptiles -- also dwelled during the Cretaceous period in what is now Denali, he said.

Denali National Park, one of the most popular visitor destinations in Alaska, is also drawing increased attention from paleontologists.

Because of the characteristics of the rock formations there, Denali has proven to be one of the best places in the world to find prehistoric bird tracks, Fiorillo said.

Thousands of prehistoric bird tracks have been found there, but what is particularly important is the variety.

"It's the most biodiversity represented by the tracks (in the world)," he said.

Some of the tracks match species that dwelled during that period in more southern latitudes of North America or in Asia -- suggesting birds migrated from great distances to Alaska to breed and nest in Cretaceous summers just as they do today.

"Isn't it kind of neat to think about the idea that in the Cretaceous, 70 million years ago, Alaska might have served the same kind of avian needs that it does today?" Fiorillo said.

Fiorillo has been conducting paleontological digs in search of prehistoric bird tracks in Denali since 2006 and has been examining other fossils in the park since before then.

He helped discover the first dinosaur track in the park in 2005, which happened to be in a location close to the park road that carries busloads of summer tourists.

Along with birds, hadrosaurs -- duckbilled, plant-eating dinosaurs -- were plentiful in Alaska during the Cretaceous period, according to his research.

Fiorillo and colleagues from the University of Texas and the University of Alaska Fairbanks calculate that Alaska held about 500,000 hadrosaurs at any given time during that period -- roughly equivalent to modern caribou populations in Alaska.

The findings were presented at an American Geophysical Union conference held last month in San Francisco.

The climate at the time in the now-frigid region was fairly mild, "somewhere between annual temperatures of Calgary and that of Portland, Oregon," Fiorillo said. The land was well vegetated, with forests as well as open areas, he said.

The methane produced from the hadrosaurs, each of which emitted about 10 times as much of the gas as a modern cow, combined to create a small greenhouse effect and incrementally warm the region, the research speculates.

Fiorillo and his research partners believe the hadrosaurs also helped maintain the open spaces in the vegetation.
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Quoting Grothar:


You saw that, too?


Zeker.

Er was spreek van "kumbaya" vandaag op het blog. Voor me, "kom bij ons" was een kristilijke zong, niet heiden zoals een gaia.
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


Do we really know the absorption mechanisms? The constant CO2 (atmospheric) case has not been disproved as far as I know (granted unlikely).

Okay, 1.2 C from your graph.

I like to give big error bars.

0F is the deniers and 4F is the alarmists so I will respect both opinions.


Alarmists are +7.2F (+4C)
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


Maturity is precisely the point.

The night shift had a decent conversation last night...


You saw that, too?
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932. MichaelSTL

"Science stunner: On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter"

And if the earth is not 16C hotter?

If we're only 4C hotter, as the worst case IPCC scenarios suggest?

And if not even 4C, which is much more probable?

What would that suggest?
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Quoting Levi32:


The IPCC's error estimate doesn't even come close to allowing the possibility of a flat temperature trend through 2050, which 2F plus/minus 2F would.



Do we really know the absorption mechanisms? The constant CO2 (atmospheric) case has not been disproved as far as I know (granted unlikely).

Okay, 1.2 C from your graph.

I like to give big error bars.

0F is the deniers and 4F is the alarmists so I will respect both opinions.
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


2050 2 F +/- 2 F, roughly that of the IPCC. I favor the low side.


So zero, same as me, except I'm giving +/-0.45C vs. your +/-1.67C.

+/-1.67C is hard to come by in the temperature record for a 1000 year period, let alone 40.
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


Maturity is precisely the point.

The night shift had a decent conversation last night...
I'm not so sure about tonight.Maybe some people snuck in a few more beers?.Lol.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17074
A nice chart I found here.



Note that temperatures roughly track solar activity until the late 70s, where upon which they take off.

That. Is. Damning.
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Quoting RecordSeason:
EnergyMOron:

Part of the roof of your house is dark, so putting solar on the roof is partially masked.

In the comment you were responding to, I was making that statement for the purpose of demonstrating how big of a temperature difference the color and texture of a surface can make, due to absorbing more sunlight than "natural" surfaces.

Putting panels or heaters on your roof doesn't have nearly as much an effect, because it is partially masked by the fact your roof does about the same thing anyway, well, if it's a dark color and depending on exact color.


You have to learn not to make assumptions.

I have a Berridge cool roof

Color selection

Wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong.

try googel map on 4618 waycross houston texas (was on the Houston Solar Tour a few times). Not my house but illustrates the point.

Zoom in. See the panels (16 of them).

Note the roof performance.

BTW, she is losing money on the panels owing to the smart meters and the "stupid grid"
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Quoting Seastep:
JFLORIDA, TomTaylor, MichaelSTL - Please provide your prediction of temperatures over the next 30-40 years.

My prediction is flat, for the most part. What is yours?

Please graph it for us relative to the same, if you would be so kind. You can give me your numbers and I'll graph it for you, if it is too much trouble.

UAH 1979-2010:



My prediction:



Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Clearly, as you can see based on current trends, the line is only getting steeper.

I predict eventually, it will double back on itself, around 2015, give or take 5 or 6 years.





In all seriousness, I have no idea, but I'm guessing it won't go down.
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


2050 2 F /- 2 F, roughly that of the IPCC. I favor the low side.


The IPCC's error estimate doesn't even come close to allowing the possibility of a flat temperature trend through 2050, which 2F plus/minus 2F would.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting washingtonian115:
And I bet you it was more tolerable,and mature than some of what these people are doing. When will invest season pick up?


Maturity is precisely the point.

The night shift had a decent conversation last night...
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Quoting Seastep:
You too, moron.


2050 2 F +/- 2 F, roughly that of the IPCC. I favor the low side.
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


My conversation with my teenage daughter about the 2010 and 2003 heat waves was infinitely more intelligent than most of what the day shift has produced...
And I bet you it was more tolerable,and mature than some of what these people are doing.When will invest season pick up?
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17074
JFLORIDA, TomTaylor, MichaelSTL - Please provide your prediction of temperatures over the next 30-40 years.

My prediction is flat, for the most part. What is yours?

Please graph it for us relative to the same, if you would be so kind. You can give me your numbers and I'll graph it for you, if it is too much trouble.

UAH 1979-2010:



My prediction:

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Quoting washingtonian115:
June or May even can't come soon enough for some folks...


My conversation with my teenage daughter about the 2010 and 2003 heat waves was infinitely more intelligent than most of what the day shift has produced...
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Quoting RecordSeason:


You could easily drive up the ambient temperature in your yard by 20f or more just by placing a few pieces of black cardboard in your back yard, even by the time you count wind blowing across it....


Huh?

I have solar panels and live beneath them. I am strongly affected by the urban heat island effect since a cathedral of the american religion (otherwise known as a pro football stadium) is located within easy walking distance.

Um....

20F?

Really?

Really?

Solar water heaters are a turkey I will add (love the solar PV).
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June or May even can't come soon enough for some folks...
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17074
Quoting RecordSeason:


You would have a point if you could show me a natural, non-insulated, non-geothermal surface on earth with an ambient day time temperature of 170f. That would mean CO2 or some other effect was as important as color or texture.

Since the world wide record high for surface air temperature on earth is nowhere near 170f, I take it you're not going to be able to find such a measurement.

If it happens, be sure to let me know, although we don't need to say that we'll probably all be dead by then.


The surface of the earth hasn't changed bud. Temperatures have.

BOOM.

Oh wait, what's that? The surface of the earth has changed? Who changed it? Oh, man did?

BOOM, MAN MADE GLOBAL WARMING.






looooooooooooool your argument does nothing to disprove the effects of co2 on our planet's temperature AND it only strengthens the man made global warming argument.
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Quoting TomTaylor:


Ah forget it, I got time.



Have you never heard of the little ice age? or the mideval warm period?

That graph is a composite of multiple graphs all showing the same basic trends.

To question the validity is pointless, UNLESS you can show me a graph showing some form of conflicting data. As far as I know there are none.




But does the validity of the graph even matter?

That's my question to you RecordSeason, why are you getting so upset with MichaelSTL's graph? Seen too many hockey stick graphs in your life? What's got you hung up, bud?


Just like how Creationists make up ridiculous objections to the science of radioactive rock dating the Deniers make up ridiculous objections to proxy temperature data. It is essentially jumping up and down yelling "you didn't see it so you can't prove it and neither can anyone else!!!", the pseudo-skepticism I've spoken of before.
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Quoting MichaelSTL:


LOL, is he STILL trying to talk to me?!?!?! LOL - that should tell you all (BTW, when I ignore somebody, I also ban them from my blog - an easy way to find out if I ignored you).

Anyway, if he tries to post a reply to me again, do me a favor and DO NOT quote it. At least until WU makes it so that ignore works on quoted comments as well...


Yes, I do reply to you because you are not the only one who would read rebuttals to your comments, which I make frequently to provide information on the other side of the debate.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting TomTaylor:


show me a graph suggesting other wise and I'll reconsider the fact that we are significantly warmer than we ever have been in the last ten thousand years.


No you won't.

You should be bothered by how much discrepancy there is between most proxies for the last 2000 years. If you extend the time period back even farther using the ice cores (and those have issues too) we are not really warmer now than we have been in prior interglacials. The argument is that we should be flattening and cooling by now, not continuing to warm. Our proxies can't agree on the frame of reference for the 20th century to be graded on, and our observations of the early 20th century are questionable as well.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Nah, probably not a good idea. You'd really look desperate then.


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Quoting RecordSeason:


This proves beyond any doubt that CO2 is irrelevant compared to other factors.

No it does not.

^ There, I used just as much evidence as you to present my argument, in about 1,000 fewer words.

Sorry RecordSeason, but you still have no idea to what effect, or how much, CO2 contributes to the warmth of the planet.

Do all the calculations you'd like, you will never know.


If we knew that already, we wouldn't be debating it right now.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

Then no one get's to go to jail, okay. Let's get through the night without any arrests. That's always been my goal afterall. lol

Backed into a corner cowering and the infamous mom references are made in a fleeing attempt at saving face.....How original!

LOL!!!


Well I almost brought your dad into this if that helps...
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.