Year 4, Month 1, Day 13: Ain’t No Place A Man Can Hide, Will Keep Him From The Sun

The Woodland, CA Daily Democrat runs an AP article on the future of Beautiful Lake Tahoe and environs:

Lake Tahoe is “the fairest picture the whole earth affords,” Mark Twain once wrote. Its crystal blue waters, surrounded by stunning snowy mountains, define one of California’s crown jewels as an American landmark. It attracts 3 million skiers, boaters, campers, hikers and other visitors each year.

But it could look very different in 100 years.

Climate change could profoundly affect the Tahoe area, scientists say, taking the snow out of the mountains and the blue out of the water. Last winter’s ski season showed a glimpse of what a future, warmer Tahoe may look like. Snow didn’t start falling in the mountains until January. The California Ski Industry Association reported that 25 percent fewer skiers visited the Sierra last season. For a region that boasts a $5 billion year-round economy, that hurts.

New climate models show that in a worst-case scenario average temperatures in the Tahoe area could rise as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That’s equivalent to moving Lake Tahoe from its current elevation of 6,200 feet above sea level to 3,700 feet, climate scientists report in a special January issue of the journal Climatic Change. That’s as high as the peak of Contra Costa County’s Mount Diablo, which gets only an inch of snow a year.


Homewood Ski Resort, a lower-elevation resort without an extensive snowmaking system, is well aware of the threat of climate change. Last season, Homewood didn’t open until Dec. 14, said resort spokesman Paul Raymore, and it wasn’t able to open any chair lifts until January. More winters such as last year’s would be disastrous. “We do rely on Mother Nature and what she provides in terms of natural snowfall,” Raymore said.

While doing little to curb global climate change, the resort does encourage skiers to use public transit, now offering $5 off lift tickets for those who do. “We have a vested interest in ensuring that the mountains stay cold,” Raymore said.

To be sure, people should keep in mind that the climate models aren’t necessarily forecasts, said Michael Dettinger, a climate modeler at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego and one of the authors of the special Climatic Change issue. “They’re what-if predictions,” he said, adding that scientists can’t say yet which scenario is most likely to unfold.


Sent January 8:

When considering climate scientists’ warnings about the dangers of a climate-changed future, we must remember that climate models are notoriously fallible — and that their predictions of how a transformed planetary atmosphere will impact our lives are frequently inaccurate.

So does this mean everything’s fine? Nope. Those scientists almost universally erred in underestimating the speed and severity of the damage. By now “worse than expected” is a near-universal refrain in scientific circles and the public media. Arctic ice? Melting faster than expected. Sea levels? Rising faster than expected. Heat waves? Hotter, longer, and larger than expected.

That these effects are now outracing experts’ predictions is no reason to dismiss scientific study of our climate. If your oncologist tells you the prognosis is worse than expected, that doesn’t mean you should abandon therapy. Those who love and enjoy the beauties of Lake Tahoe had better get ready for the unexpected.

Warren Senders

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