Words on Weather & Climate — March 4, 2010

Winter 2009-2010


Meteorologist Craig James, new Squire columnist

The calendar says winter lasts until March 20 this year. However, meteorologists consider winter to be the three full months of December, January and February. Spring is March, April and May, etc. So winter is over, right? Any snow now is spring snow. Can’t you see the difference?

So how did the temperatures turn out this winter season in West Michigan? In Grand Rapids, the temperature for the three months was 1.6 degrees above average. In Muskegon, it was 1.1 degrees above average, but in Kalamazoo it was 1.6 degrees below average. So the northern part of our area was a little warmer and the southern part a little cooler. My forecast in the December 10 edition of this newspaper was for temperatures to be “near to a little below average.” I’d give myself a “pretty close but not exactly right on” for the forecast.

The snowfall season runs from the first flake to the last flake. The first flakes fell this year on November 26 and the last flakes… well, I would guess we will see flakes this year into April for a six-month snow season. We have seen snow October into May before, so don’t complain. As of the end of February, the total in Grand Rapids was 70.2 inches, in Muskegon 73.2 inches, and 69.7 inches in Kalamazoo.

This gives us a snowfall that is a little above average up to this point, but certainly less than the 104.5 inches we had received by this point last winter. Muskegon’s total is almost 20 inches below what they would normally see up to this point in the winter and way below the 147.8 inches they had at this point last year. My forecast for this season was for around 70 inches in Grand Rapids. So, to be right on, I hope it doesn’t snow much more. That is possible, but not likely. Last year, from this point on in the season, we had just 0.4 inches of additional snow.

The heaviest snows and the coldest temperatures relative to average this season have been to our south and southeast. In the month of February, the cities of Pittsburgh, New York and Philadelphia, among many others, had the snowiest month ever recorded. The 77 inches for the season so far in Pittsburgh is more than twice the average for an entire season.

Dallas has received almost 16 inches this season, just shy of the snowiest season on record. Washington, D.C. has received 56 inches so far with more on the way. The average there for an entire season is just 15 inches. In Philadelphia, 79 inches has fallen already, compared to a seasonal average of just 19 inches. That’s five feet more than normal, and it will snow more before the last flake falls!

This was a cold and snowy winter across parts of North America, as well as in an area from Great Britain into Asia. Although globally, temperatures were warm for both January and February. This was due to natural causes. There has been a fairly strong El Niño along with a cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and a negative phase of what is called the Artic Oscillation. These factors have combined to produce the storm track we have seen this winter and the resulting temperature and snowfall patterns. This was well-forecast in advance by several long-range forecasters.

But recently there have been several global-warming alarmists, including Al Gore, stating that this snowy winter is entirely to be expected from global warming. What a bunch of baloney! Had there been less snow than normal, that too would have been blamed on global warming. An article in Nature 2005 stated what would seem to be obvious: “In a warmer world, less winter precipitation falls as snow.”

Or how about this comment in Science magazine in 2008? “The persistent and dramatic decline in the snow pack of many mountains in the West is caused primarily by human-induced global warming.”

In 2005, Columbia University published a study titled “Will Climate Change Affect Snow Cover Over North America?” The study ran nine climate models used by the IPCC, using data back to the late 1800s, and all nine predicted that North American winter snow cover would decline significantly with the decline starting in 1990 and a significant decline between 2000 and 2010.

This chart from the Rutgers University snow lab shows the increase in North American snow extent since 1989. The snow lab also states that “North American snow extent broke its all-time record” in early February 2010. This trend is entirely INCONSISTENT with global-warming predictions. I guess you can blame anything on global warming and simply blame the opposite on it later, and get no challenge from the mainstream media.

Craig James has been retired since July 1, 2008, after 40 years of broadcasting television weather. He was chief meteorologist at WZZM-TV for 12 years and chief meteorologist at WOOD-TV for 24 years. He is a graduate of Penn State University, where he received a Centennial Fellowship Award. He was also honored as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

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