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February 21, 2008

The La Nina that Wasn't

On November 4th, I posted about this season's La Nina and the predicted effects on the Southwest:

"La Niña has been closer to above-normal North and below-normal South trends," Pringle said with regard to snow conditions.

Snowfall in the San Juans could be average or a bit below normal. The National Weather Service predicts La Niña's effect on New Mexico and Arizona to be much more apparent, with less precipitation and higher than average temperatures.

In a word--NO. Not so much. Turns out that Wolf Creek in the San Juans is already sitting at very close to 500" and there are still almost two months left in the season. Sunrise and Snowbowl both opened before Christmas and Snowbowl has already received 200"+ for the season.

I am left to ponder the fact that despite almost 100 years of studying El Nino, the folks that make climate predictions have still been unable to predict weather paterns with any accuracy. Last year was an El Nino year, but despite predictions for record snowfall in the Southwest, we got far below average snowfall, so much so that Arizona Snowbowl barely opened for two weeks. This year is a La Nina year and snowfall is above average at three of the four southwest resorts that I ski (Wolf Creek, Brian Head, Sunrise and Snowbowl).

But we do have a looming climate crisis. It is not rising ocean levels, but rather food shortages and starvation:

The United Nations is stepping in to try to rescue Tajikistan from a social catastrophe brought on by severe winter weather. But even if an emergency UN appeal for assistance generates a robust international response, it is questionable whether Tajikistan will be able to avoid entering a downward spiral, featuring pestilence and widespread hunger...

China’s inflation accelerated in January to 7.1 percent - its rate highest in more than a decade - amid snowstorms that fueled a spike in food costs, according to data reported Tuesday...

But economists have raised their inflation forecasts for the first half of 2008 after freak snowstorms battered China’s south, killing millions of farm animals and wrecking crops.

Chinese leaders are especially worried about the political impact of rapidly rising food costs, which hit the country’s poor majority hard.

The winter even included snow in Baghdad for the first time in a century:

Snow fell on Baghdad on Friday for the first time in memory, and delighted residents declared it an omen of peace.

“It is the first time we’ve seen snow in Baghdad,” said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. “We’ve seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished,” he said.

It has been an odd year. One that has been wetter than expected in the southwest, which we badly need. Somehow, I don't think that the Chinese, when confronted with calls for them to cut greenhouse gasses to combat global warming and when faced with a massive famine crisis because of an abnormally cold winter, will be inclined to take steps to be more environmentally friendly. And I don't think that the myriad of articles promising the demise of skiing are particullarly grounded in fact. Scares like this in particullar:

PARK CITY, UTAH (AP) — Another winter storm headed to Utah could bring two feet of snow and frigid temperatures to the Wasatch mountains. But don't let that fool you.

Utah's trademark Greatest Snow on Earth could be a memory by 2075, say a pair of Colorado climatologists, who warn that global warming could shrink the ski season to a mere two months a year.

Some interesting reading on the subject can be found at Warren Miller's New West Blog. He is skeptical of the global warming hysteria so prevalent in the ski industry too. What if we are wrong about the long term predictions for global warming? 2008's snowfall in Asia provides a disturbing prediction of what global cooling or a new mini-iceage will look like.


Posted by Justin at February 21, 2008 02:06 PM

Comments

It's about both--you get a rush from skiing the big stuff, but an even bigger rush from doing it with people you love. #2 son and I went up last Saturday (we don't get as many days as you guys do--too much day job), best day of the year. He skiied Engens top to bottom, a little shaky, but linking his turns and starting to reach down the hill with his outside hand--best day of the year.

We will talk about times at the condo when we're old and gray and I'm lapping Navajo with the grandkids so their parents can ski (assuming they don't let the sport become so expensive that family skiing will be a thing of the past for those families not named Hilton, Romney, etc.)

Posted by: Dan Curriden at February 29, 2008 04:27 PM