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Washington State Snowpack

Tweaking the numbers

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31 Jul 10 - On Thursday, I joined several hundred others at a Seattle luncheon to hear a great talk by Dr. Roger Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado.

As luck would have it, I sat next to Kay H. Jones Ph.D., who served as a senior advisor at the President's Council on Environmental Quality under both the Ford and Carter Administrations.

Dr Jones pointed out to me how easy it is to use trend charts to push an agenda simply by picking the proper dates. Then he mentioned that he has written a policy paper showing the obvious bias in Cascade snowpack trend charts.*

"Recently, the general public has been barraged with a series of threatening stories about the dire consequences of climate change in the Northwest," says Dr. Jones. "Many of these concerns relate to the apparent loss of snowpack during the last 50 years and the risk of temperature increases as high as 10 degrees Fahrenheit during the next century."

The media (and the politicians) like to scare us (and tax us) by bemoaning the 25% or more decline in snowpack from 1950 to 1997, as reported by the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group (CIG).

This chart is misleading, says Dr. Jones. The use of 1950 as the starting point for the CIG trends analysis has biased the results.

What the media (and the politicians) fail to tell you is that the 1950 snow season had the highest snow pack in the 20th century. So of  course, any chart that begins in 1950 would show a downward trend.

However, if you include data from before to 1950 and after 1997, says Dr. Jones, you'll see that the year to year variation has not actually changed over the last century. "Except for the decade of the 1950s, there has been no discernible downward trend in the decadal averaged snow pack in the Cascades over the last century."

You'll see that the line takes a dive around 2006, but when you realize that we're headed into the cold phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillatio (PDO), and that we've had the lowest sunspot activity in a hundred years, I think you'll see that line shoot upward very shortly.

Especially when you remember that California's snowpack was 2 to 4 times normal this past year. That's how ice ages begin ... more and more snow each winter.


See entire paper by Dr. Jones:
* "Sharpening the Focus on Climate Change in the Northwest"

(Former Washington State Associate Climatologist Mark Albright and former Oregon State Climatologist George had inputs to this study, says Dr. Jones.)  


See also:
Pacific Northwest Snow Pack
- the True Story

23 Jul 09 - Washington Governor Gregoire says the snow pack has declined 20% over
the past 30 years. Actual numbers show a
Pacific Northwest Snow Pack - the True Story




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