Snowfall and Snowstorms are Not Decreasing as Predicted by Climate Projections
Changnon, S. A. 2008. Space and time distribution of major winter storms in the United States. Natural Hazards 45: 1-9.
The IPCC TAR (http://observatory.ph/resources/IPCC/TAR/wg2/569.htm#1524123) stated: "Milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms". The AR4 (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/faq-4-1.html) stated "Observations show a global-scale decline of snow and ice over many years, especially since 1980 and increasing during the past decade." In the United States, NOAA echoing the UN IPCC, claimed snow would continue its retreat north with the storm tracks and major cities would get more rain than snow along with milder, shorter winters.
On March 20, 2000, The Independent, a British newspaper, reported that the Dr. David Viner of the UK's Climate Research Unit warning within a few years snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event." Indeed, Viner opined, "Children just aren't going to know what snow is." Similarly, David Parker, at the UK's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, said that eventually British children could have only "virtual" experience of snow via movies and the Internet.
The Union of Concerned Scientists opined confidently in 2004 scientists claim winters were becoming warmer and less snowy. In 2008, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. bemoaned that children would be robbed of the childhood joys of sledding and skiing in the DC area due to global warming. A year later, the area set a new seasonal snowfall record with 5 to 6 feet of snow and sleds and skis were the only way to get around.
Changnon et al. (2006), in an analysis of temporal and spatial characteristics of snowstorms in the United States, found the temporal distributions of storms and their losses exhibited considerable spatial variability across the nation. For example, when storms were very frequent in the Northeast, they were infrequent elsewhere, a result of regional shifts in storm-producing synoptic weather conditions over time. Another recent paper by Changnon (2008) shows that winter storms and snow accumulation have increased in recent years in the northeast, central and the Great Lakes region of the United States.
NOAA satellite derived snow extent data has been archived since 1967. An analysis of the average snow extent in winter shows an increasing not a decreasing trend.
Source Rutgers NOAA Data Snow Lab.
Snowcover for the hemisphere has been increasing the last 45 years, setting records the last 4 years. A new record was set for December/January this past winter, last year, ranks second for that period. 1977/78 was third, 2007/08 fourth. For the entire winter, 2009/10 was top, 1977/78 second and 2010/11 third greatest, 2007/08 not far behind.
NCDC has a measure of snowstorm impact for the northeast that provides yet another view that can allow us to examine trends beyond the 1999-2003 period that was the last 5 year period in the Changnon study. For the northeast region, The Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale or NESIS found 5 significant winter storms in the 2004-2008 period and 9 in the first three years of the next period from 2009-2013.
NESIS is an updated synoptic climatology of the major Northeast snowstorms presented by Kocin and Uccellini (2004a,b), NESIS focuses on the amount of snow that falls, mapped onto the population density in the northeast urban corridor that experiences the snow.
Furthermore, NESIS values are computed directly and provide an objective measure of the impact of a snowstorm on the population distribution. NESIS was updated this winter (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/snow-and-ice/nesis.php) including the four major winter storms we had this year, the 4 last year and one in the prior winter. NESIS categorizes major storms from notable to extreme based on impact. 9 of the 44 storms (20%) listed since 1956 have occurred in the last 3 years (5% of the 56 years). 6 were major, 1 significant and 2 notable.
It is clear from the data and the objective measures of frequency and impact that snow is not declining as predicted but increasing in extent and magnitude. None of the climate models in the 1990s predicted recent observed increase in winter storms and snow accumulation over conterminous US as well as over Canada.
Changnon, S. A., Changnon, D., Karl, T.R. 2006. Temporal and spatial characteristics of snowstorms in the contiguous U.S. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climate 45: 1141-1156.
Kocin, P. J. and Uccellini, L. W. 2004. A Snowfall Impact Scale Derived From Northeast Storm Snowfall Distributions. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 85: 177-194.
Squires, M. F. and Lawrimore, J.H. 2006. Development of an Operational Snowfall Impact Scale. 22nd IIPS, Atlanta, GA