Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past

Cheap shot I know, but hard to resist. This is the Indescribablyboring from March 2000:

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".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.


Professor Jarich Oosten, an anthropologist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, says that even if we no longer see snow, it will remain culturally important.

"We don't really have wolves in Europe any more, but they are still an important part of our culture and everyone knows what they look like," he said.

David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes - or eventually "feel" virtual cold.

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.

Of course snow falling always has and always will cause chaos in Britain. Until it stops falling completely, which may now be a few years further away than was previously thought :-)

(for those who've been living in a cave for the last few years, or at least outside the UK, it appears that in fact reports of the demise of snowfall are greatly exaggerated, at least according to the winters of 2008, 2009 and 2010).

Actually, it's better than that, because the latest research is that all this snowfall is actually more proof of global warming after all! I await with amusement the reaction of the detection and attribution community to this proof that all their results are bogus, since they have already proved that the "warmer winters" are being caused by anthropogenic global warming (eg here, a paper I just saw today). Personally, while I accept it's theoretically possible for AGW to cause some localised cooling (at least on a temporary basis), my money is on the D&A results for the time being. Invest in Scottish skiing resorts (at least for the long term) at your peril...

(and as a footnote to the pedants, I know there doesn't necessarily have to be a contradiction between snowfall and warmth, but in fact this December has been not only snowy but also perhaps the coldest since records began in the UK).


Anonymous said...

Up is down, East is West, North is South, warming is cooling, cooling is warming. When truth is not your primary motivator, it gets increasingly difficult to keep the story straight.

crandles said...

Your money is on the D&A results.

I agree that the independent headline is hyping this up this as more extreme winters to come. But putting your money on one makes it look like you agree they are opposites for you to choose one over the other.

Trying to discard the hype by looking at quotes:

"Vladimir Petoukhov, who carried out the study at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said the computer simulations showed that the disappearing sea ice is likely to have widespread and unpredictable impacts on the climate of the northern hemisphere."

'Widespread and unpredictable' can hardly be much of a 'supplement' to evidence for or against AGW.

So how is "Our results imply that several recent severe winters do not conflict with the global warming picture but rather supplement it." supposed to be interpreted?

Supplementing impacts perhaps?

By preferring the D&A studies are you ruling out 'widespread and unpredictable impacts' from retreating arctic ice?

Is expecting both to be true (ie warmer winters on average but with greater variability) being too gullible/pessimistic?

Peter.Bridge2 said...

I'm interested in people's views on this stuff from Mike Lockwood from April 2010


There may be some rough correlation between sunspots and UK weather ? - is this Piers Corbyns big secret :-) ! (Yes I did see your results where he seemed to be about 55% successful in the forecasts you analysed for rainfall and temperature rather than the claimed 85%, but I did wonder at the time if this was rather better than a complete guess)

Anonymous said...

Is the cold shifting, due to changing weather patterns? England has always been warmer than it should be.

Russia is having an unusually warm winter, and this is causing havoc with transport as well.

"It’s one thing for airports to close because of really heavy snow (as in New York and nearby tonight), and one thing for airports to close in light snow because of greedy, foolish airport owners (as in the case of London Heathrow recently, to paraphrase the more forgiving accounts in the UK press) but for Moscow’s airports to be paralysed because it was too warm in winter IS something out of left field.

Moscow had a Christmas ‘heatwave’. It rained, rather than snowed, because it was 20C warmer than normal, in fact, temperatures went close to zero degrees C, and as a valued Russian aviation associate recounts, this was very bad for air travelers in a country famous for coping with ultra cold (and thus ultra dry) winters without missing a beat."

20C warmer than normal is quite a jump, this on top of their recent summer heat wave.


Anonymous said...

OK. Watts!

What have you done with Dr Annan? ;-)

2 pathways of causation that are not mutually exclusive.
1) Warmer Winters - Warming due to the impacts of GHGs, either direct; radiatively, or indirect; impact on atmospheric circulation.
2) Colder Winters - Disturbance of the atmospheric profile of the Arctic due to low levels of sea-ice: - increased atmospheric heat flux and latent heat of fusion - cause changes to wider NH circulation resulting in the extreme low Arctic Oscillation (AO) and atypical cold winter of last year, and possibly this year (so far looking very similar).
1 & 2 being indicative of an increase in the occurence of these events, not necessarily every year.

From my reading the details still have to be worked out, 2 looks like a tenable explanation of last winter and (so far) this winter. I'm taking Dr Overland seriously. I read about Petoukhov and Semenov’s paper over at RC, that just added weight to what I've learned from various papers in the past year.

This year's unusual UK cold is likely to reassert itself and continue (34 Decembers with low AO since 1950; 2 had +ve AO in following Jan & Feb, 12 had -ve AO in either Jan or Feb, 20 had -ve AO in both Jan & Feb). So I'll make 2 predictions.

1) This January and February will see the low AO and Warm Arctic Cold Continents pattern persist.

2) Taking this year as the first full winter in the decade 2010-2019, if I had any money (boo hoo) it'd be on more than 5 winters similar to 2009/2010,
By "similar" I mean:
i) unusually low Dec-Feb AO index (at or below 2.5), as determined by the average of Dec, Jan & Feb using this data:
ii) Warm Arctic Cold Continents temperature anomalies over the NH, i.e. Over Eurasia and Europe, around the 60degN from around the UK to 120degE, and the Eastern US between 30N and 60N stretching up to Alaska. Persistent anomalies more -4degC. With continued warm anomalies in the Arctic (lets say predominant +4degC anomalies). Pretty much as can be seen at the following link:
Current images here:

Unfortunately I can't offer a bet on this as I'm skint. I can't be any more specific about the conditions, my math's aren't up to doing the sort of analysis required (EOFs loading functions etc), but I won't arse about over the details if general patterns show I'm wrong.

Chris R

Peter Bridge 2,
I've pondered about that during last winter, but came to the conclusion it's too early to see that effect given that we're only just coming out of a minima and minima 21-22 (ACRIM) was lower. Try reading Shindell "Solar forcing of regional climate change during the Maunder Minimum." It's very relevant, they find a -ve NAO type response in a climate model in response to reduced solar forcing. No tea leaves involved.

skanky said...

The cold European winters have been due to increased meridional flow (blocking). This pattern was also seen in the cause of the Pakistan floods, the Russian heatwave, and the effects of the Icelandic volcano affecting Western Europe. It may also (I haven't checked) been responsible for the recent Aussie extremes and the N Americans ones (I believe it was the cause of the warmer Canadian winters - eg see recent winter olympics).

This to me raises three questions:

1) Is this blocking *just* part of natural variation, or is there an increased tendency to it as the planet warms?

2) Are the effects of it amplified or deadened by it, and are we seeing that now, or will we see it soon?

3) Can the D&A studies resolve this pattern - or are they able to, but don't?

I realise it's all weather, so we may be back to increased zonal flow like ten years ago soon, but it would be nice to know that people are looking at this.

skanky said...

"(Yes I did see your results where he seemed to be about 55% successful in the forecasts you analysed for rainfall and temperature rather than the claimed 85%, but I did wonder at the time if this was rather better than a complete guess)"

JA mainly tested against predicted anomalies (temp, precip, etc.). The thing was, in some cases where PC got those right, he got the synoptics wrong, so I'd say it probably wasn't any better than guessing based on some climatology.

James Annan said...

I only skimmed that paper, but D&A is generally based on changes in the mean, and the work was talking of a trend to warmer climates. In theory they could probably address changes in variability with minor adjustments to the analysis. However, I suspect that a more plausible conclusion in the presence of both warm and cold extremes is that they have underestimated natural variability at the outset (rather than that AGW is increasing both cases), in which case the detection results would be weakened.

Anonymous said...

"However, I suspect that a more plausible conclusion in the presence of both warm and cold extremes is that they have underestimated natural variability at the outset"

We do seem to be experiencing some extremes. Are they within natural variablility? The impression I get is that once in a century floods are becoming more than once in a century. The Russian heatwave was extreme, but attributable to AGW. The warm Russian winter is possibly a sign that there is more to this, when you also consider the ice extent trend.


Anonymous said...

This is also the warmest La Nina we have seen. What does that add to the equation?


James Annan said...

In the global scale, IMO it confirms that we have a general warming trend with natural variability overlaying it...

Flooding is complicated by the fact that (certainly in the UK), the "hardening" of the land surface leads to faster runoff and greater downstream flooding even for the same rainfall. We've built up all the flood plains! So it's hard to be sure how much of the flooding is really due to abnormal rainfall.

Anonymous said...

That should read not

"The Russian heatwave was extreme, but attributable to AGW. "


"The Russion heatwave was extreme, but not directly attributable to AGW".


Steve Bloom said...

Trenberth has some interesting views, focusing on the Russian heat wave/Pakistan flooding, which he characterizes as a single event.

Carrick said...

I'm of the school that thinks that the later appearance of ice in the Greenland Sea and Hudson Bay and the associated blocking highs might be a ready explanation for the paradoxical cooling in Europe and the SE US.

This graphic from Accuwather certainly seems to suggest that.

Whether this is an indicator of climate change depends on whether ice-free regions of the Hudson Bay and Greenland Sea will be typical of future climate change or not. (Personally I think it's too soon to predict, at least without better models than we have right now.)

Anonymous said...

"Trenberth has some interesting views, focusing on the Russian heat wave/Pakistan flooding, which he characterizes as a single event."

Thanks, that's the sort of information I was looking for.