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Climate Disruption: Airlifting snow from Washington, DC, to Vancouver, British Columbia

February 11th, 2010 · No Comments

Prominent elements Republican Party and associated anti-science syndrome sufferers are gleefully (and ignorantly) making jokes about the Washington, DC, area’s record snow levels, using this to confuse people about the realities of Global Warming. The reality of Global Warming is that “warmth” isn’t what all of us will feel with each moment, after all that moment is weather, and that climate disruption can foster colder weather in one place and warmth in other areas.  Thus, Washington, DC, has had over 55 inches of snow, setting a record for snow levels (even while not setting records for cold temperatures for a winter — in fact, the “most average January since 1987“). At the same time that Washingtonians are digging out from over 30 inches of snow in six days, the Winter Olympic’s site has resorted to using trucks and helicopters to bring snow to competition sites as temperatures are in the balmy 40+ range Fahrenheit (some eight degrees above normal) at the Cypress Mountain Olympic site. Certainly, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded Vancouver the 2010 Winter Olympics, no one thought to have scheduled an airlift of snow between Washington, DC, and Vancouver.

Thus, there is a reality that

Let us be clear, no single weather event proves global warming but deep snow in Washington shouldn’t dissuade Senator Bingaman from seeking climate legislation as snow in Jim Inhofe’s front yard doesn’t prove that his deception-laden truthiness has any basis in reality.

NOTE: Recommended reading today, Joe Romm, Memo to the NY Times: We are NOT in a big freeze!

UPDATE: After this post, Romm put up a piece highlighting this as well: Is that airlifted snow on your Olympic ski mountain or is your enormous helicopter just happy to see me?

For anyone concerned, here is a useful National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration tool for seeing global temperature anomolies.   Below is a snapshot from 1 February which shows Russia, much of Western Europe, and the interior of the Continental United States as unusually cold.  Canada, most of the Arctic, and much of Antarctica are atypically warm.

Some material about the conditions at Cypress Mountain Olympic site, in West Vancouver. (Cypress Mountain could be called an Olympics X-Games site with freestyle skiing and the snowboard halfpipe.)

NYTimes on Cypress Mountain conditions

On Tuesday, organizers gave the news media their first look at Cypress Mountain, the site of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events, with hopes of allaying concerns about a lack of snow and unseasonably warm weather endangering the competitions. But officials kept the snowboarding halfpipe off limits, citing safety concerns. The mountain looked as if it were under military siege, not an Olympic site days from competition.

Maintenance crews continued to work around the clock. The helicopter, which resembles an orange stick insect, continually shuttled snow from higher elevations. Some of the 160 loads hauled in the past week were brought by trucks that made a three-hour trip. …

The Olympic plans at Cypress were undercut by the warmest January on record, which kept snowmaking to a minimum. According to Environment Canada, the average temperature this year was 7.2 degrees Celsius (45 Fahrenheit), when it normally is 3.3 C (38). From Dec. 1 to Jan. 31, the area received 79 percent of its usual precipitation, but most of it was rain.

Note, as predicted, Cypress had snow yesterday. Rain in in the forecast over the coming week.

Houston Chronicle

Sunny skies and unseasonably mild weather Monday continued to delight visitors to the Canadian coast and confound organizers trying to construct Olympic-quality courses of snow and ice on Cypress Mountain north of downtown.

Temperatures were in the mid-40s on Monday afternoon …

Helicopter pilots have dropped tens of thousands of cubic feet of snow on the mountain since last week in an attempt to make up for a snow base that is less than half its normal thickness and temperatures that are up to 7 degrees higher than normal.

From the Vancouver Sun, 28 January 2010:

Vancouver is set to register the warmest January on record with average temperatures more than twice as high as normal, according to Environment Canada.

“It’s quite possible this will be the warmest January. We’re sitting at 7.1 Celsius for an average right now and it will take a lot of cooling to knock that down,” meteorologist David Jones said.

The highest recorded average temperature for the month is 6.3 C, set in 1983 and matched in 1994, 2003 and 2006. Since record-keeping began in 1937 at Vancouver International Airport, the average temperature in January has been 3.3 C.

Vancouver has set four daily high records as temperatures soared into double digits an unprecedented 11 times in the first 21 days of January. A normal month would have only three to four days above 10 C.

There have only been two days this month when the temperature dipped below freezing; normally Vancouver sees 12 January days below zero.

The balmy winter has been worrying fans, officials and athletes of the 2010 Winter Games. The forecast may go from bad to terrible for Cypress Mountain, an Olympic venue that has already seen close to 500 mm of rain this month.

Amy Shipley, Amid all the warm weather, the forecast calls for hauling in snow at the Vancouver Olympics, Washington Post, 11 January 2010 (sadly only on line?)

Record snowfalls may be burying the Washington area this winter, but in Vancouver the warmest January in at least 74 years and a historic lack of snow accumulation have stressed out organizers, baffled meteorologists and forced emergency measures more commonly employed to fight forest fires in the days leading up to Friday’s Opening Ceremonies. …

Warm, wet El Niño winds from Hawaii that occasionally bring unseasonably warm weather around the region are known locally as the “pineapple express,” but the effects rarely last more than a few days.

January, however, was the warmest in Vancouver since record-keeping began in 1937, with a mean temperature (the average of the high and low daily) of 45 degrees, more than seven degrees above the norm (38 degrees) as well as five degrees above the previous high.

“We really shattered the all-time record,” he said. “It’s El Niño, and there’s something else that nobody understands at this point. It’s El Niño Plus.”

And, finally, note that Cypress has had to cancel winter sports events in the past due to lack of snow.

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Tags: climate change · climate delayers · Energy · Global Warming · James Inhofe