Massive moisture-driven extreme precipitation during warmest winter in the satellite record — and the deniers say it disproves (!) climate science

Plus Dr. Jeff Masters on “Heavy snowfall in a warming world”

Memo to anti-science crowd:  Precipitation isn’t temperature!

UAH 2-6

Another massive mid-Atlantic precipitation event, another piece of nonsense from the anti-science crowd.   Kevin Mooney of the American Spectator actually wrote an article titled, “Snowmageddon” Versus “Overwhelming Scientific Evidence,” which asserts:

This is the first time since record keeping started that two storms of such magnitude have hit the region during one winter. Already some localities are reporting the largest snowfall ever recorded.

To be sure, these events do not prove or disprove human caused global warming. But the momentum is now very much on the side of skeptical scientists who question these theories and President Obama should at least pull back from his awkward juxtapositions.

Yes, for the anti-science crowd, the kind of extreme precipitation event the mid-Atlantic states just experienced somehow weighs against the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change — even though it is entirely consistent with the predictions of climate science (see Was the “Blizzard of 2009″³ a “global warming type” of record snowfall “” or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)? and analysis by uber-meteorologist, Dr. Jeff Masters below).

What’s particularly laughable about Mooney’s article is that according to the UAH satellite data so beloved of the anti-science crowd, the storm occurred on the warmest February 6 — and indeed, during the warmest winter — in the temperature record (data here — the orange line ending in the white box in the figure above tracks temperatures in 2010).

Capital Climate has an excellent analysis on Super Storm 2010, which finds:

The conclusion I would draw from all of this is that the 2010 storm was distinct from other similar events in the past by having moisture be the dominant element over temperature in producing the extreme snow amounts.

Hmm.  If only there were a theory to explain why we might be seeing massive amounts of moisture and extreme precipitation events….

The rest of this post is “Heavy snowfall in a warming world,” a reprint from the website of one of the best meteorologists around, Dr. Jeff Masters, former Hurricane Hunter and now Director of Meteorology for the Weather Underground:

A major new winter storm is headed east over the U.S. today, and threatens to dump a foot or more of snow on Philadelphia, New York City, and surrounding regions Tuesday and Wednesday. Philadelphia is still digging out from its second top-ten snowstorm of recorded history to hit the city this winter, and the streets are going to begin looking like canyons if this week’s snowstorm adds a significant amount of snow to the incredible 28.5″ that fell during “Snowmageddon” last Friday and Saturday. Philadelphia has had two snowstorms exceeding 23″ this winter. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the return period for a 22+ inch snow storm is once every 100 years–and we’ve had two 100-year snow storms in Philadelphia this winter. It is true that if the winter pattern of jet stream location, sea surface temperatures, etc, are suitable for a 100-year storm to form, that will increase the chances for a second such storm to occur that same year, and thus the odds have having two 100-year storms the same year are not 1 in 10,000. Still, the two huge snowstorms this winter in the Mid-Atlantic are definitely a very rare event one should see only once every few hundred years, and is something that has not occurred since modern records began in 1870. The situation is similar for Baltimore and Washington D.C. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the expected return period in the Washington D.C./Baltimore region for snowstorms with more than 16 inches of snow is about once every 25 years. This one-two punch of two major Nor’easters in one winter with 16+ inches of snow is unprecedented in the historical record for the region, which goes back to the late 1800s.

Figure 1. Cars buried in Philadelphia by “Snowmageddon”. Image credit: wunderphotographer TragicHipster.

Top 9 snowstorms on record for Philadelphia:

1. 30.7″, Jan 7-8, 1996
2. 28.5″, Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
3. 23.2″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
4. 21.3″, Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 21.0″, Dec 25-26, 1909
6. 19.4″, Apr 3-4, 1915
7. 18.9″, Feb 12-14, 1899
8. 16.7″, Jan 22-24, 1935
9. 15.1″, Feb 28-Mar 1, 1941

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Baltimore:

1. 28.2″, Feb 15-18, 2003
2. 26.5″, Jan 27-29, 1922
3. 24.8″, Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
4. 22.8″, Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 22.5″, Jan 7-8, 1996
6. 22.0″, Mar 29-30, 1942
7. 21.4″, Feb 11-14, 1899
8. 21.0″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 20.0″, Feb 18-19, 1979
10. 16.0″, Mar 15-18, 1892

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Washington, D.C.:

1. 28.0″, Jan 27-28, 1922
2. 20.5″, Feb 11-13, 1899
3. 18.7″, Feb 18-19, 1979
4. 17.8″ Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
5. 17.1″, Jan 6-8, 1996
6. 16.7″, Feb 15-18, 2003
7. 16.6″, Feb 11-12, 1983
8. 16.4″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 14.4″, Feb 15-16, 1958
10. 14.4″, Feb 7, 1936

Heavy snow events–a contradiction to global warming theory?
Global warming skeptics regularly have a field day whenever a record snow storm pounds the U.S., claiming that such events are inconsistent with a globe that is warming. If the globe is warming, there should, on average, be fewer days when it snows, and thus fewer snow storms. However, it is possible that if climate change is simultaneously causing an increase in ratio of snowstorms with very heavy snow to storms with ordinary amounts of snow, we could actually see an increase in very heavy snowstorms in some portions of the world. There is evidence that this is happening for winter storms in the Northeast U.S.–the mighty Nor’easters like the “Snowmageddon” storm of February 5-6 and “Snowpocalypse” of December 19, 2009. Let’s take a look at the evidence. There are two requirements for a record snow storm:

1) A near-record amount of moisture in the air (or a very slow moving storm).
2) Temperatures cold enough for snow.

It’s not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the globe warmed 0.74°C (1.4°F) over the past 100 years. There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming, with plenty of opportunities for snow. The more difficult ingredient for producing a record snowstorm is the requirement of near-record levels of moisture. Global warming theory predicts that global precipitation will increase, and that heavy precipitation events–the ones most likely to cause flash flooding–will also increase. This occurs because as the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases, resulting in more water vapor in the air. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, water vapor in the global atmosphere has increased by about 5% over the 20th century, and 4% since 1970. This extra moisture in the air will tend to produce heavier snowstorms, assuming it is cold enough to snow. Groisman et al. (2004) found a 14% increase in heavy (top 5%) and 20% increase in very heavy (top 1%) precipitation events in the U.S. over the past 100 years, though mainly in spring and summer. However, the authors did find a significant increase in winter heavy precipitation events have occurred in the Northeast U.S. This was echoed by Changnon et al. (2006), who found, “The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity.”

The strongest cold-season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent for the U.S.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) began as a presidential initiative in 1989 and was mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606), which called for “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” This program has put out some excellent peer-reviewed science on climate change that, in my view, is as authoritative as the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. In 2009, the USGCRP put out its excellent U.S. Climate Impacts Report, summarizing the observed and forecast impacts of climate change on the U.S. The report’s main conclusion about cold season storms was “ Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent”.

The report’s more detailed analysis: “Large-scale storm systems are the dominant weather phenomenon during the cold season in the United States. Although the analysis of these storms is complicated by a relatively short length of most observational records and by the highly variable nature of strong storms, some clear patterns have emerged (Kunkel et al., 2008).

Storm tracks have shifted northward over the last 50 years as evidenced by a decrease in the frequency of storms in mid-latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere, while high-latitude activity has increased. There is also evidence of an increase in the intensity of storms in both the mid- and high-latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with greater confidence in the increases occurring in high latitudes (Kunkel et al., 2008). The northward shift is projected to continue, and strong cold season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent, with greater wind speeds and more extreme wave heights”. The study also noted that we should expect an increase in lake-effect snowstorms over the next few decades. Lake-effect snow is produced by the strong flow of cold air across large areas of relatively warmer ice-free water. The report says, “As the climate has warmed, ice coverage on the Great Lakes has fallen. The maximum seasonal coverage of Great Lakes ice decreased at a rate of 8.4 percent per decade from 1973 through 2008, amounting to a roughly 30 percent decrease in ice coverage. This has created conditions conducive to greater evaporation of moisture and thus heavier snowstorms. Among recent extreme lake-effect snow events was a February 2007 10-day storm total of over 10 feet of snow in western New York state. Climate models suggest that lake-effect snowfalls are likely to increase over the next few decades. In the longer term, lake-effect snows are likely to decrease as temperatures continue to rise, with the precipitation then falling as rain”.

Of course, both climate change contrarians and climate change scientists agree that no single weather event can be blamed on climate change. However, one can “load the dice” in favor of events that used to be rare–or unheard of–if the climate is changing to a new state. It is quite possible that the dice have been loaded in favor of more intense Nor’easters for the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, thanks to the higher levels of moisture present in the air due to warmer global temperatures. It’s worth mentioning that heavy snow storms should be getting increasingly rare for the extreme southern portion of the U.S. in coming decades. There’s almost always high amounts of moisture available for a potential heavy snow in the South–just not enough cold air. With freezing temperatures expected to decrease and the jet stream and associated storm track expected to move northward, the extreme southern portion of the U.S. should see a reduction in both heavy and ordinary snow storms in the coming decades.

The CapitalClimate blog has a nice perspective on “Snowmageddon”, and Joe Romm of has some interesting things to say about snowstorms in a warming climate.

Changnon, S.A., D. Changnon, and T.R. Karl, 2006, , “Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States”, J. Appl. Meteor. Climatol., 45, 1141.1155.

Groisman, P.Y., R.W. Knight, T.R. Karl, D.R. Easterling, B. Sun, and J.H. Lawrimore, 2004, “Contemporary Changes of the Hydrological Cycle over the Contiguous United States: Trends Derived from In Situ Observations,” J. Hydrometeor., 5, 64-85.

Kunkel, K.E., P.D. Bromirski, H.E. Brooks, T. Cavazos, A.V. Douglas, D.R. Easterling, K.A. Emanuel, P.Ya. Groisman, G.J. Holland, T.R. Knutson, J.P. Kossin, P.D. Komar, D.H. Levinson, and R.L. Smith, 2008: Observed changes in weather and climate extremes. In: Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate: Regions of Focus: North America, Hawaii, Caribbean, and U.S. Pacific Islands [Karl, T.R., G.A. Meehl, C.D. Miller, S.J. Hassol, A.M. Waple, and W.L. Murray (eds.)]. Synthesis and Assessment Product 3.3. U.S. Climate Change Science Program, Washington, DC, pp. 35-80.

Jeff Masters

45 Responses to Massive moisture-driven extreme precipitation during warmest winter in the satellite record — and the deniers say it disproves (!) climate science

  1. Sonjia Crowwell says:

    Have the laws of physics changed since the record was set in 1922?

    [JR: No, thankfully. And that’s how come we know humans are changing the climate by injecting massive amounts of heat trapping greenhouse gases, warming the planet, and putting more precipitation in the air, creating more extreme precipitation events year-round. And it’s those same laws of physics that let us know that major snowfall in the East Coast is not evidence against climate science but rather consistent with it. And it is actual observations and statistical analysis that lets us know extreme precipitation events are in fact becoming more commonplace in the United States, just as science predicts.

    Again, individual weather events are not direct proof for or against human caused climate change. Indeed, we’ve only warmed about 1°F in the recent decades, so we’re not yet outside the bounds of typical year-to-year changes in the weather. But if we listen to the kinds of anti-science folks you seem to, then we will warm 10 times that this century and blow past most records — although there won’t be bloody much snow in Washington DC in the second half of this century if we do that.

    Thanks for asking!]

  2. Benno Hansen says:

    Good article, thanks. Reminded me of this 2007 Nature article: Humans have made the skies more moist.

  3. Deep Climate says:

    I think you’re making a very important point.

    The full explanation might also touch on whether regional temperatures on the eastern seaboard were below the record levels in January (I suspect they were, at least in Washington area). That is presumably related to the Arctic outflow patterns seen this winter, as described in your Spencer UAH article, leading to the conditions for, well, a perfect storm.

    One nitpick: I would use CH 05, not the default CH 04, for the satellite chart. In, general, AMSU Channel 5 is used for both the mid and lower tropospheric data analysis series from UAH and RSS.

    P.S. You may want to look at today.

    [JR: I was going to use both, but then decided that was too much. The Czech guy used #4 and that’s why I’ve been doing so.]

  4. dhogaza says:

    P.S. You may want to look at today.

    Joe, I e-mailed you about deep climate’s latest post earlier today – and IMO he’s right, you just might want to check it out (just in case I ended up in your junk mail or whatever).

    [JR: I saw it, thanks. I’m working on a post. There is just too much damn stuff to blog on. You’ve no idea all the stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor.]

  5. Andy says:

    Snow = cold. I guess most folks can’t get beyond that.

    Most of the artic and antarctic would be desert except that the perennial cold temperature keeps evaporation down to a minimum. Indeed, snowfall and rainfall are greatly increasing in the artic as it warms up. Why is this so hard for people to grasp?

    Remember the 1980’s and 1990’s predictions that increased snowfall on Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets would offset global warming caused melting so we wouldn’t have to worry about rising sea levels? Well, we did see increased snowfall as predicted, it just can’t keep up with the astounding melt rates.

    Sorry, but folks are just going to have to take their brains out for a spin every once and a while.

  6. Richard Brenne says:

    Just some added parentheticals in caps to help the public understand this:

    “Changnon et al. (2006), who found, “The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast (WHERE IT’S INCREASINGLY BECOMING TOO WARM TO SNOW). Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast (WHERE IT’S STILL OFTEN COLD ENOUGH TO SNOW), and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity.””

    Also make clear that global warming means more energy in the atmosphere that manifests itself as an increase in stronger cyclonic activity.

    And it’d be interesting to create mechanisms so that the 2004 and 2006 studies can be updated each year to include the most recent year of full data, as of now 2009, since such trends must be generally increasing over enough time. (I know in these cases they were examining the 20th Century, but the point still stands that such studies would ideally be updated annually with the same methodologies.)

  7. Sonjia Crowwell says:

    We only have 30 years of satelite temperature data. Intelligent people know that is not enough. It can’t begin to cover cycles and oscillations of greater intervals.
    About as bad as referees using a 12″ ruler at the superbowl.

    [JR: Ah, more condescension from the right.

    I was wondering how long it would take the anti-science crowd to turn on the satellite data — which up until the last month was their absolute rock solid favorite source of data. In fact, we have temperature records back to the 19th century that show the recent warming is unequivocal, much as the ice melting pretty much everywhere does.]

  8. I believe the satellite record is closer to 40 — 45 years old (depending on which parts of it you choose to count). But of course it is itself simply a part of the much deeper instrumental record. And it is to be recalled that it was the deniers who first began waving around the shallowest elements of the contemporary satellite record as “proving” that AGW was false.

  9. Rick Covert says:


    On a similar take,s took both Sarah Palin and Al Gore to task for what they stated were misrepresentations. In their spars Al Gore reported that Arctic ice had decreased by 40% over 1979 to 2000 levels. Factcheck says that Gore based this on old data and that this was true in 2007 but that totals of ice at the Arctic pole had increased since that time. Factcheck claims a 24% difference between Gore’s figure and now. What’s your take on this?

    They also take a shot at his assertion that the Arctic will be ice free by 2013. Factcheck interpreted this statement to mean completely ice free in summer and winter. Now I know that Gore meant summer ice but did Gore articulate this or is this valid criticism?

    [JR: Fact-check blew it here. Volume is what is important and what Gore typically is talking about, and that indeed appears to be down 40% or more. Everyone knows people are talking about in the summer, when they say ice free, and I wouldn’t bet against that occurring by 2020. Quite the reverse.]

  10. Richard Brenne says:

    Sonjia Crowwell (#7):

    “We only have 30 years of satelite temperature data. Intelligent people know that is not enough. It can’t begin to cover cycles and oscillations of greater intervals.
    About as bad as referees using a 12″ ruler at the superbowl.”

    To Sonjia:

    We’ve been over this. Thermometers began in ancient Alexandria and were refined by many including Galileo and Fahrenheit in 1724 and Celsius in 1742 and Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark (who carefully calibrated quite accurate thermometers, putting them in boiling water to calibrate to 212 degrees and slushy water to 32 degrees Fahrenheit) and of course many, many thousands of others, who knew to hang thermometers away from the ground, reflected heat and direct sunlight.

    Yes certain things could occasionally create inaccuracies, typically of less than 1 per cent.

    These are all intelligent people, who presumably also know that no football referee carries a yardage marker, but the chain gang does.

    No evidence in your comment leads me to believe that you’re interested in the truth, instead parroting any refutation your website masters spew out. A computer program could’ve done the same. You were given intelligence – now use it.

  11. GFW says:

    Gore has been known to make mistakes or pick extreme examples instead of representative examples. But at least his basic understanding of the trends and consequences is scientifically realistic. Palin’s is not.

    That 2013 story is soo annoying. I don’t remember what idiot said that, [quick googling …] Ok, it was Wieslaw Maslowski, a person who really should have known better. See

    Gore repeated it because Maslowski should be credible, given the position he holds. But he (Maslowski) was just going pie-in-the-sky. The range 2030-2050 is much more reasonable. I would predict that by 2040 summer ice will be functionally zero, even if there still is a measurable quantity clinging to the tip of Ellesmere Island.

  12. GFW says:

    Deep Climate: For the AMSU channel 5, they offer “20 year” min, max and avg values in addition to individual years. Some recent individual years have excursions above the 20 year max. So what 20 years are they using? Am I missing something?

  13. Shawn says:

    This is why I dislike the term “Global Warming” it skews the actuality of whats happening and global warming skeptics will rush to “Snow = cold” ideas. Wish some newscaster or government official would set that straight… “Global Wierding” as Friedman puts it.

    Good article.

  14. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    The easy meat this second massive snowstorm has given to the propagandists of denial is due in part to the weakness of public communications by the scientific community.

    Quite apart from “Global Warming”, with its simple (false) implication that warming is and will be global, which for many wealthy northern societies would offer a (false) welcome prospect,
    “Climate Change” is a similarly misleading description of the reality, if only by its utter vagueness.

    I understand that both terms’adoption can be attributed to political decision, not scientific, but scientists have yet to make a concerted effort to achieve their replacement with more apt terminology that will serve to better inform society. Few here will challenge the need to better inform society, which means the importance of the terms used may be agreed. Just what should replace the deficient terms now in use is an open question, as is the best route for instigating such a change.

    The best option for replacing “Climate Change” that I’ve come across thus far is “Climate Destabilization”, for reasons including the following :
    – its implication of increasingly extreme weather events and also of their increasing unpredictability, which in turn indicate increasingly severe casualties and damages;
    – its length (six syllables) making it a term that reflects an identifiable degree of intellectual capacity;
    – its ready transition to “climatic destabilization” (of economic and nutritional norms) which is arguably one of the most critical concepts that governments must consider when evaluating how long they wish to continue appeasing fossil fuel interests.

    For the terms we use to describe the problem to allow vested interests to present a symptomatic weather event as a disproof of the problem, is a really black joke. This present impasse in negotiations is the right time for the terms to be reviewed – and I hope others will discuss the options with a view to getting a positive result.


    Lewis Cleverdon

  15. Libby says:

    Yep…that’ll do it Lewis. Got all your bases covered with Climate Destabilization. Where’d you go to school??

  16. Doug Bostrom says:

    Lewis Cleverdon says: February 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    “Climate Change” is a similarly misleading description of the reality, if only by its utter vagueness.”

    Remember when airline passenger briefings included the phrase “should this aircraft lose cabin pressure” or some variation with an explicit reference to the concept of “depressurization?”

    Now, it’s “This aircraft is pressurized for your comfort. Should cabin pressure change…“. The word “depressurization” or any explicit reference to that malfunction is gone.

    And that’s perfectly fine in the context of calming aircraft passengers; when change happens that you can’t control why worry?

    That’s the crafted communications style that drove Luntz to suggest injecting “climate change” as a substitute for “global warming”. Change just happens, you can’t control it, why worry?

    ““Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming”.

    It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming…

  17. jyyh says:

    Man, it really looks like this has been a rare event.

    From CNN:”But the heavy, wet snow has even trapped some plows, Washington Department of Transportation director Gabe Klein said.ut the heavy, wet snow has even trapped some plows, Washington Department of Transportation director Gabe Klein said.”

    I’ve heard of three occasions in my home town here in Finland that this has happened. Two of the plowers were a bit inexperienced and one was experienced, so it is really not a matter of skill. To use another plower to get another moving is a task very few people have done.

  18. Justin says:

    Unrelated, but I’m sure Joe will cover this tomorrow:

    … just terrible.

  19. Ryan_T says:

    As I understand it, AVERAGE precipitation amounts could either increase or decrease depending on region, but the intensity of individual events is likely to increase where other conditions are favorable.

    Sonjia, I’d say it’s worth paying attention if the satellite tropospheric anomalies agree well with the surface records etc., and we have a multi-decadal trend that meshes well with an amplified greenhouse effect, not with natural variability (which has apparently tended to be modest on a global scale during the holocene).

  20. Doug Bostrom says:

    Justin says: February 9, 2010 at 12:56 am

    What neophyte junior just minted cadet wet behind the ears reporter is so utterly and fundamentally clueless on this topic as to quote the fabulous “Lord” Monckton? Elisabeth Rosenthal, that’s who, phoning it in, setting down for posterity an article that will live in infamy for its guileless credulity.

    That was one utterly crappy article. Wherever you are, Elisabeth Rosenthal, you should do a little investigation on your “experts.”


  21. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Re #19 – The NY Times article cites Moncton, Pielke Jr, and Bassaro as the sources who question the IPCC’s credibility. Just amazing! Where’s the Times story reviewing the credibility and credentials of those three as compared to those of the IPCC experts?

    Re “climate destabilization” – true, but too many syllables for the group we are trying to reach.
    How about: “Climate crash”? I think I know what John Stewart might call it —

  22. Dan B says:


    When thousands of climate scientists say our goose is cooked why would you cling onto the one who says it can’t be true?

    Does this make your success more likely?

    Do I sound annoyed, or just angry that we could have found a way out imminent disaster if we’d looked carefully at the data, but now it may be too late?

    I’m going for the solutions: 21st Century energy economy – a Green / Clean America.

    China’s beating us to the punch. Do you care to step up to the challenge?


  23. LT says:

    James Hansen is once again prophetic and his timing is impeccable. Did he not name his book, released in Dec, ‘STORMS of my Grandchildren”?

  24. Dennis says:

    Sonjia Crowwell (#7):

    “We only have 30 years of satelite temperature data. Intelligent people know that is not enough.”

    Intelligent people also know that if we don’t know everything, that does not prove that we know nothing.

  25. Jezrah Limon says:

    From The Independent on 20 March 2000 we got the headline: “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”. 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”.

    [JR: One must always distinguish between what scientists say and what journalists and they are sensationalistic editors translate that to:

    Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. “We’re really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time,” he said.

    Not really that far off the mark.]

  26. Libby says:

    Justin #19….might be terrible, but if from the NYT, it’s credible..

  27. Bill Waterhouse says:

    It’s 54 degrees F right now in Narsarsuak and Qaqortoq Greenland –
    — and it’s 52 degrees now in Long Beach CA where I live.

    What’s going on in Greenland?  Gulf Stream, jet stream changes?  Found a short article in an English language Greenland newspaper noting the record heat, but nothing more on the web.  I know that no single area’s temperature is that meaningful for world climate trends, but still this is quite an extreme anomaly.  Can anyone explain it?

  28. Doug Bostrom says:

    Libby says: February 9, 2010 at 10:14 am

    “Justin #19….might be terrible, but if from the NYT, it’s credible..”

    I think you’re supposed to put ‘credible’ inside double quotes.


    “This is what they did — these climate “scientists” on whose unsupported word the world’s classe politique proposes to set up an unelected global government this December in Copenhagen, with vast and unprecedented powers to control all formerly free markets, to tax wealthy nations and all of their financial transactions, to regulate the economic and environmental affairs of all nations and to confiscate and extinguish all patent and intellectual property rights.”

    Extinguish patents. Uh-huh. Rosenthal really knows how to pick ’em.

  29. MarkB says:

    Bill Waterhouse (#28),

    I think it might have something to do with the Arctic Oscillation, which is extremely negative at the moment.

    This brings Arctic air far south and leaves regions like Greenland very warm.

    Combine this with record atmospheric and sea surface temperatures and the east coast record snow event is no surprise at all.

  30. MarkB says:

    Regarding Greenland weather, their mild winter temperatures are actually quite extraordinary and unprecedented. Narsarsuaq is running more than 30 degrees F above average and daily record highs (which run in the low to mid 40’s) are being shattered by 10 degrees. Usually daily records are broken by a degree or two – not by that much. Temperature-wise, this is far more significant than the somewhat below average temperatures in the eastern portions of the United States.

  31. MarkB says:

    Here’s a map of temperature anomalies for the last 7 days.

  32. WAG says:

    FYI, new study shows positive climate feedbacks from soil will be stronger than expected:

    “This showed “carbon dioxide emissions from the soil will be up to 50 percent higher than those suggested by the present mainstream method,” if the mean global temperature rose by the previously forecasted five degrees Celsius before the end of the century, and if the carbon flow to soil did not increase.”

  33. Clif says:

    Regarding this:

    “What’s particularly laughable about Mooney’s article is that according to the UAH satellite data so beloved of the anti-science crowd, the storm occurred on the warmest February 6 — and indeed, during the warmest winter — in the temperature record”

    Isn’t it also laughable that you would reference a GLOBAL temperature average when talking about a snow storm that is quite clearly a LOCAL/REGIONAL event. Surely as a scientist and climate expert, you know that the global average temperature on a particular day hardly has much relevance to a local weather event. So I can only conclude that you are being very dishonest in attempting to infer a direct connection, for purposes of promoting alarm about global warming.

  34. Colorado Bob says:

    Some other items from this winter and fall . Dec. was the wettest month ever recorded at New Orleans. That was the case for many cities in the southern U.S.
    This was done without a tropical system making landfall. The 3 month period before , was the wettest period there on record .
    The Dec. storm also set a snowfall record at Okla. City when it passed there. That storm produced a 10 inch rain fall in Northern Miami.

    LAX had it’s lowest barometric pressure ever recorded with the big Feb. system as well.
    In June of 07′ I watched the extreme rain event at Marble Falls , Texas. 18 inches in 6 hours. This winter I had the chance to visit with Gary P. Nunn he lives there, and was home at the time.
    His advice …… ” You better be on high ground when one of these things comes. “

  35. Colorado Bob says:

    But the most alarming thing this winter, is what the sea life is doing in the Pacific. When the sea lions departed from San Francisco this winter , and showed of at the mouth of the Columbia. The population of the sea lions at the Galapagos Islands departed for the coast of Peru. Large numbers of Humbolt squid were seen north of San Francisco. Those creatures that can move, are clearly doing it, as the oceans change to this new more energy packed world.

  36. Ryan_T says:

    Interesting that you’d see it that way, Clif, but it seems that Joe is actually highlighting the foolishness of an argument pointing to a single regional snow storm as proof that global warming isn’t occurring. He notes that it’s consistent with projections of climate change (a trend toward heavier regional precipitation events), not that it’s entirely or directly attributable to it.

  37. From Peru says:


    Extreme precipitation events are still hitting my country, Peru.

    So , we have had:

    November-December: high rainfall in central-south Andes, a mudflow covereed the Ayacucho Region capital, Huamanga, missing the center by a few hundred meters. (in spanish)

    January: Extreme rainfall hit South Andes, destroying the city of Aguas Calientes in Cuzco, leaving thosands of tourists left behind in Macchu Picchu.
    “Peru: Cusco Floods Mudslides Emergency”

  38. From Peru says:


    January-February: Extreme rainfall continued, flooding thousands of hectares of crops in Cuzco and Puno. Then flooding hit the Huallaga River in North-central Andes.

    (Excuse me if the news are in spanish)

    Had anyone a map and timeseries of water vapor in the Atmosphere?

    I guess the El Niño put a lot of moisture in the air.

  39. From Peru says:

    A lot of moisture in the air (a present from El Niño?) …

    … H2O(vap) , the main greenhouse gas…

    I guess temperatures will stay high until all this moisture dissipates.

    2010 record warm year: the probability continues to go up!

  40. From Peru says:

    RSS Lower Tropospheric Temperature also is at a record warm for January:

    Nº1: 2010-1 (+0,64 ºC)
    Nº2: 2007-1 (+0,59 ºC)
    Nº3: 1998-1 (+0,55 ºC)

    We will see if the ABSOLUTE record, in February 1998 (+0.736 ºC)is broken or not.

  41. This winter is definitely abnormal. We have had -30 Celsius in Belarus in December. 5-7 previous winters were very warm, almost without snow.

  42. Michael T. says:

    #42 Green Business:
    That is just the local weather. When the temperatures are averaged over a longer time (i.e. a month), some areas of the planet are cooler than normal, and some areas are warmer than average. But if averaged over a longer time, like a decade or longer, then the weather fluctuations tend to go away. These are called anomalies, or departures from the long-term average (e.g. 1951-1980).

  43. Eduardo says:

    Hi Joe,

    So I want to complement the information from PERU with the information from my country Colombia, which limits with Peru.
    December-January-February: Record breaking temperatures in cities like Bogota (2.600m) and Medellin (1.600m), new disease because mosquito’s can live in high cold places they couldn´t reach before.
    30 localities start program´s to rationalize water.
    In summary climate change is more than real…and is sad to read and listen about the climate change debate in the US.
    Joe I´m looking forward to read your book

  44. Donna says:

    Could someone please tell me the source of the graph at the top of the page titled “Daily global average temperature of near surface layer (ch04)? I’m confused as to why July would be the high temp when the southern half of the globe would have winter conditions.
    Thank you,