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Harris-Mann Climatology Article Archive

Title: I'm Expecting More, Not Less Snow, in the Next 50 Years

Author: Climatologist Cliff Harris
Published: 2/25/2013

Following an AP article entitled, "Climate Contradiction: Less Snow, More Blizzards," I received dozens of phone calls and e-mails asking my opinion on the future of the ski industry in our part of the country.

As I’ve said for decades, we are currently in a strong 70-year cycle of WIDE WEATHER ‘EXTREMES’ that began in 1968 and won’t end until at least 2038.

This climate phase is very similar to a long-term cycle of weather ‘extremes’ that prevailed a millennium ago between 980 and 1050 A.D. during the days of Leif Ericsson, the mighty Viking Chieftain. That so-called ‘Climate Optimum’ period was actually warmer than today’s weather globally without any supposed influence of Mankind’s activity on our planet. The average global temperature in 1015 A.D. during the middle of the warm cycle was estimated to be at least two degrees milder (Fahrenheit) than today’s mean temperature on Earth.

According to the National Climate Data Center, the U.S. has been walloped by "twice as many extreme snowstorms (blizzards) in the past 50 years than during the previous 60 years combined."

The most recent whopper of a blizzard of historic proportions dumped more than three feet of snow earlier this month on parts of New England.

It was caused by two storm systems colliding over the northeastern U.S., one from the Arctic north and a second storm that contained extremely warm and moist air from the Mid-Atlantic waters.

As I told Alecia Warren of the Press more than a month ago before the blizzard in the Northeast, warmer air can hold much more moisture than colder, drier air. But, when these two widely-opposing air masses collide, that’s when we see the blizzards or "winter hurricanes," as some call them. This latest blizzard had an ‘eye’ like a hurricane when it pushed offshore east of Massachusetts on Saturday, February 9.

As the AP article pointed out, "strong snowstorms thrive on the ragged edges of temperature contrasts," where there is lots of moisture and the air is cold enough for the precipitation to fall as snow.

In our part of the country, we’ve seen approximately 30% more snowfall than normal since 2007, including the snowiest season at least 1895 in Coeur d’Alene, when a whopping 172.9 inches of snow fell during the building-collapsing winter of 2007-08. Our normal seasonal snowfall since 1895 has been 69.8 inches in town.

I certainly do not agree with the new climate models that predict that we will have 50% or more less snow in the Pacific Northwest, including North Idaho, towards the middle of this century.

Remember, during a very cool and wet ‘La Nina’ event in the Pacific waters in 1998-99, when snow levels remained abnormally low in the Pacific Northwest, the Mt. Baker ski area in western Washington received an amazing 1,124 inches of snow — an incredible 93.7 feet — the height of a thirteen story building!

This historic snowfall total surpassed the old Washington State record of 1,122.5 inches set during another La Nina winter of 1971-72 at the Paradise Ranger Station in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.

It remains the firm opinion of this climatologist that due to frequent collisions of the widely-opposing air masses during the winter and early spring periods, we should see MORE SNOW, not less of the white stuff across the Inland Northwest, including North Idaho.

Sometime during the next decade, we should also see a new all-time seasonal snowfall record of at least 1,140 inches — 95 feet — set somewhere in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle. It’s quite likely that we will see another winter season in North Idaho with collapsed roofs caused by several feet of heavy, wet snow. The nearby ski areas may see a winter season with snowfall totals exceeding 700 inches in places.

In other words, folks, I’m very ‘BULLISH’ in my skiing outlooks, especially long-term. More moisture will certainly equal more snow, especially above 4,000 to 5,000 feet.

Take that to the bank.