Year 4, Month 12, Day 18: A Little More Lovely Than It Was Before You

The Spokesman-Review takes note of a new study on the Rockies’ rapidly disappearing snowpack:

Last weekend’s doozy of a storm followed a classic Northwest weather script.

Winds gusting to 40 mph blew moisture-rich air from the ocean into the Cascades and Northern Rockies, dumping snow on the mountains while leaving lower elevations bare.

The winds – called “winter westerlies” – are vital to a region that depends on mountain snowpack for its water supply. But a new study suggests that climate change is disrupting the winds, with stark implications for future water availability.

“Those winds are being slowed down by climate change,” said Charlie Luce, a research hydrologist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Boise. That means fewer storms will reach the mountains, or smaller water droplets will drift over the peaks as fog instead of falling as snow, he said.

Either scenario would mean additional headaches for Northwest policymakers preparing for an altered climate.

Warmer temperatures already are expected to shift some Northwest precipitation from snow to rain and cause the snow that does accumulate to melt earlier in the year. The net effect is reduced runoff during the spring and summer, when the water is needed for irrigation, hydropower, fisheries and other uses. Complicating matters, Luce’s study suggests there will be far less water to begin with.

The “Missing Mountain Water” study was published last week in Science magazine by Luce and researchers from the University of Idaho and the U.S. Forest Service.

This letter is a pastiche from previous efforts. December 6:

The newly released study of the Northwest’s shrinking snowpack offers further support to an enormous body of research that confirms a distressing planetary trend. Human greenhouse emissions have achieved quantities sufficient to warm the Earth’s atmosphere and affect ecosystems all around the world in unpredictable and disruptive ways. This loss of water resources in the Rockies and Cascades is exacerbated by those politicians and media figures whose rigid ideologies compel them to reject the implications of scientific inquiry and analysis.

Our national case of ADD has blinded us to the fact that when it comes to the planet’s health, we’re all in this together. Perhaps the climate crisis may finally help us realize that what we do in our own neighborhoods can affect people’s lives on the other side of the globe — and that what we do today will shape the lives of our descendants in the distant future.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 23: Intestines Were A-Hanging From The Highest Of The Trees

The New York Times notes that winter sports are suffering a bit:

NEWBURY, N.H. — Helena Williams had a great day of skiing here at Mount Sunapee shortly after the resort opened at the end of November, but when she came back the next day, the temperatures had warmed and turned patches of the trails from white to brown.

“It’s worrisome for the start of the season,” said Ms. Williams, 18, a member of the ski team at nearby Colby-Sawyer College. “The winter is obviously having issues deciding whether it wants to be cold or warm.”

Her angst is well founded. Memories linger of last winter, when meager snowfall and unseasonably warm weather kept many skiers off the slopes. It was the fourth-warmest winter on record since 1896, forcing half the nation’s ski areas to open late and almost half to close early.

Whether this winter turns out to be warm or cold, scientists say that climate change means the long-term outlook for skiers everywhere is bleak. The threat of global warming hangs over almost every resort, from Sugarloaf in Maine to Squaw Valley in California. As temperatures rise, analysts predict that scores of the nation’s ski centers, especially those at lower elevations and latitudes, will eventually vanish.

I went skiing as a kid in different places all over New England. It was fun until I broke my leg as a teenager. At that point I said, “fuck it.” Sent December 17:

Thanks to the barrage of weather-related disasters over the past year, more previously dubious Americans are beginning to accept the reality of global climate change; there’s something about tangible evidence that helps nudge people off the fence. The decline in snow coverage on the nation’s ski slopes should amplify this effect, perhaps helping winter sports enthusiasts to recognize both the factuality of the greenhouse effect and the dangers it presents.

But we — all of us — must start thinking in much longer terms and much larger scales. While the economic disruption caused by a collapsing winter sports industry will be significant, it pales in comparison to that triggered by a collapsing planetary environment. While our industrialized society has wrought technological wonders, we are laughably unable to control the havoc unleashed by our profligate greenhouse emissions. Humanity isn’t on the bunny slopes anymore, but careening down a precipice, unknowing, unheeding.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 13: I Never Has Seen Snow

The Sydney Morning Herald for October 10 notes that the Australian Alps are going to lose all their snow by 2050 if things go on this way:

AUSTRALIA’S ski slopes could be completely bare of natural winter snow by 2050 unless concerted action is taken against global warming, according to a government-commissioned report that paints a grim picture of the effects of climate change on alpine areas.

The report, Caring For Our Australian Alps Catchments, has found that the Alps, which stretch from Victoria through NSW to the ACT, face an average temperature rise of between 0.6 and 2.9 degrees by 2050, depending on how much action countries take to combat climate change.

”The effects of climate change are predicted to be the single greatest threat to the natural condition values of the Australian Alps catchments,” the report says.

I didn’t even know there were Alps in Australia. Sent October 9 (because it’s already tomorrow in Australia):

There is less wiggle room than ever before for those who would deny the facts of global climate change. For several decades it has been possible to ignore the predictions of climatologists as they assessed the likely shape of a post-greenhouse-effect planet; after all, all those dire things were going to happen sometime in the indefinite future, so there was time enough to worry about them later on.

Well, as the recently released report on the future of Australia’s Alps demonstrates, the “indefinite future” is no longer “indefinite.” Indeed, it’s hardly even “future”; as ski-slope operators must be realizing right about now, a few decades isn’t much time to prepare for such drastic environmental transformations.

All over the world, climatologists’ predictions are coming true much faster than anyone expected. It behooves us to pay attention to what they’ve been saying for years — and to what they’re saying now.

Warren Senders


Month 3, Day 15: Wet

Was wondering what to write about when I got involved in trying to fix some leaks that had developed in my basement. Dammit.

Anyway, I was good and pissed-off, so I thought I’d take it out on the Boston Herald. The swollen belly returns for another turn in this one. One day it’ll make it into print.

Hey, climate-change deniers! Do a few freak snowstorms disprove global warming? How about a few freak rainstorms? Climate scientists have long predicted that extreme weather will increase over the next decade as global temperature goes up: more heat means more water evaporating into the atmosphere, and that means more rain in spring, more snow in winter, and more weirdness and wetness all around. We can expect big effects on agriculture, faster deterioration of roads and infrastructure, more power outages and disruptions. It’s time for you to face the facts. An unseasonal snowstorm in Washington DC no more disproves global warming than the kwashiorkor-swollen belly of a starving child disproves world hunger.

Warren Senders