Monday, July 21, 2014

Melt-Out Day in Paradise

Yesterday, July 20th, was a big day at Mount Rainier National Park;   melt-out day at the Paradise Ranger Station at 5500 ft.  This reporting site is particularly important and valuable because there is a 98 year record of snow measurements (1917-2014).

It may have been foggy at Paradise, but snow to be seen!

There is, of course, importance in this date because of concerns about global warming. With warming temperatures you would expect less snow and an earlier melt-out date.  A number of media stories have talked about global warming causing mountain snows to melt out early.  So at a long-observed location, what is actually happening?

For the entire 98-year record, the average snow melt-out date is July11th at Paradise.  So the snow stuck around for NINE DAYS more than the long-term average.

Mark Albright, a research meteorologist at the UW, has produced a nice table summarizing melt-out date by decade. The earliest melt-out dates were in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by the 1960s,



What about a nearby station to the south, Mt. Hood, at 5400 ft?   The snow melt date there was July 2nd, which makes sense since Hood is over 100 miles to the south of Rainier.  Mark Nelson, chief meteorologist at channel-12 in Portland, did an analysis of the snow-melt dates at Mt. Hood (found here).   Take a look at the graph that he produced.  The melt out was within a day of the average for the last 33 years (July3).  And it does look like the melt-out date is generally getting later at Mount Hood.


The bottom line of all this analysis (and much more that I am not showing you), is that the snow at mid to upper elevations in the Cascades is not melting out earlier during the past few decades.   As I noted many times in this blog, the Northwest is a favored location when it comes to global warming, with the eastern Pacific showing little warming during the past few decades.   The eastern Pacific determines the nature of the air masses approaching our mountains and thus we can't expect an earlier melt of the snowpack.

Eventually, the eastern Pacific will warm, but its slow change will buy us (and our snow pack) time here in the Northwest.

Global Warming, the Media, and Coal Trains

I will be giving a talk in Friday Harbor and Eastsound, sponsored by the San Juan Island and Orcas Is. libraries.

I will be discussing the serious threat of global warming, how the media is generally doing a poor job in educating about this issue, and how mankind is really not taking it seriously (e.g., the coal trains). 

Friday Harbor: July 22nd, 6:30 PM, The Mullis Community Center, 589 Nash St.

Orcas Island:  July 23rd, 5:30 PM, Orcas Center

11 comments:

Unknown said...

Assume your presentation on global warming will be on PowerPoint. Will you be making this widely available to your readers? I would be interested.

Fixed Carbon said...

Cliff:

"The great American oyster collapse" re Willapa Bay in Al Jazeera and Yahoo News today.

The question is how old is the CO2 in the upwelling Washington Coast water? What is the source of that CO2?

Marcia Coffey Turnquist said...

I'm very confused by this article and had to read it more than once. On the one hand you tell us the snow melt date is LATER rather than EARLIER, and yet, you seem certain that Global Warming is coming. Aren't you ignoring your own data?

caveat emptor said...

Interesting. North of the border every snow pillow in SW BC showed melt out before average. bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/data/asp/realtime/index.htm. Some were only marginally before average, but several were way earlier.

Kurt Klimisch said...

Wait, there are reports that melt off dates vary? Some places are early some are late? But rest assured, Global Warming is coming.

Gerry RingErickson said...

Cliff,
During the last fifty years of time when I have visited Mt Rainier, it is obvious that the Nisqually Glacier has retreated over a mile up its moraine. Also, the Paradise Glacier ice caves collapsed about 25 years ago. This suggests either global warming or less snow/ice formation at the higher elevations of these glaciers. Glacier National Park is also seeing its glaciers disappear. Would appreciate a blog on this topic.
Gerry Ring-Erickson

Andrew R said...

Hmmm…Gerry's point is interesting. I'd also be interested in contrasting the paradise snow melt-out date with data from nearby glaciers. Where are there similarities/differences between the two and why?

eric said...

@Maria - take another look... Cliff explains the apparent contradiction in the article... essentially the massive pacific ocean is keeping us cooler ...

"As I noted many times in this blog, the Northwest is a favored location when it comes to global warming, with the eastern Pacific showing little warming during the past few decades. The eastern Pacific determines the nature of the air masses approaching our mountains and thus we can't expect an earlier melt of the snowpack.

Eventually, the eastern Pacific will warm, but its slow change will buy us (and our snow pack) time here in the Northwest."

eric said...

@Gerry - an off the cuff hypothesis... most of our weather and precipitation comes off the Pacific where temps are stable and cool. This keeps the snow coming to the mountains like normal. However, the warmest weather we get comes from the east or south, and that air is getting warmer. That small difference, mostly during the summer when the snow is gone, could be enough to melt the glaciers without having much effect on snow melt dates.

MaryAnn K said...

You've written a number of times about the difference between climate and weather, and I really get that. But I've lived here since the early 80's and have to say that it seems our overall trend in the local climate has really been changing.

In the 80's and 90's we never had summers with hot spells and drought as we've had pretty regularly in the last 8-10 years. The Olympic snowpack visible from Seattle has been markedly reduced over the last decade.

I've also heard from old-timers that in the 1930's (or thereabouts) it was common for Greenlake to freeze solid enough that you could ice skate on it. When was the last time THAT happened?

coldsponger said...

How did you draw a trend line on the melt out date? It looks like too widely varying data to draw a trend line. I bet the 95% confidence interval makes that line look like a big fat cigar.