Prediction: Snow will become a thing of the past with more warm, wet winters on the way

CLEVELAND - I read something this week online that startled me. Some representatives on Capital Hill are sounding the alarm. They contend this warmer-than-normal winter in the United States is the sign of things to come due to run-a-way man-made climate change. 

Rep. Henry Waxman went as far as to say that global warming is making our winters warm and causing the snow to disappear.

This reminds me of a similar comment made back in March 2000 by Dr. David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, after a warm U.K. Winter. He said 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. Wow. That's a big statement.

According to NOAA, the winter of 2011-2012 is the fourth warmest ever in the U.S. January temperatures, they say, averaged 5.5 degrees above normal for the lower 48 states. But, is this the whole story?

Not really. That 5.5 degrees, curiously, does not include Alaska, which has experienced record cold all winter long. Temperatures globally have declined this winter. January's global mean temperature anomaly was .09 degrees C below the 30 year-average. What's more, Europe is buried under record snow. The Danube River froze solid for the first time in more than two decades. Snow fell in Northern Africa, covering roads in Tripoli and in Iraq. Record cold continues from Italy to Russia.

As for snowfall, the numbers tell the story. Winter snowfall extent (the amount of land covered with snow) across North America has shown a steady increase since 1967 (See FIgure 1). 2010 saw the highest snow coverage during that time period.

Europe has seen a very slight decline in snowfall extent since that time, but the last five winters across Europe have seen above normal snowfall. And that trend continues this season with record snows in the Baltic Region, as well as the Alps and Eastern Russia.

Over all, the entire Northern Hemisphere has seen an increase in snowfall coverage since 1967. 2010 saw the second highest snow extent in 45 years, behind only 1978 (Figure 2).

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