Jan08 Northern Hemisphere snow cover: largest anomaly since 1966

There have been a number of indications that January 2008 has been an exceptional month for winter weather in not only North America, but the entire Northern Hemisphere.

We’ve had anecdotal evidence of odd weather in the form of wire reports from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and China where record setting cold and snow has been felt with intensity not seen for 30-100 years, depending on the region.

From our remote sensing groups, we have reports of significant negative anomalies in both the RSS and UAH global satellite data for the lower troposphere. The there’s NOAA’s announcement that January 2008, was below 20th century averages, plus news that Arctic sea ice has quickly recovered from the record low extent of Summer 2007.  Finally, there’s the massive La Nina said to be the driver of all this but may be a harbinger of a more permanent phase shift according to veteran forecaster Joe Bastardi.

Now to add to this, we have images and reports from NOAA and Rutgers University of large anomalies of snow cover extent for the northern hemisphere in January 2008.

First lets start with NOAA’s Snow and Ice chart for January 31st, 2008


Click image to see animated snow/ice cover. Java required

Next let us look at the Rutgers Global Snow Lab map of the Northern Hemisphere for January 2008. Note the key at the bottom of the image indicating coverage by percent.


Here is how the map above breaks down by area:

Northern Hemisphere: 50.13 million sq. km

Eurasia: 32.30 million sq. km

North America: 17.83 million sq. km
And finally, Rutgers Global Snow Lab has an anomaly graph:

snowcover_jan_anomaly.png

January 2008 had the largest areal Northern Hemisphere snow cover for the period of 1966-2008, just slightly larger than the previous largest anomaly of January, 1984.

Here are the rankings for the top 10 months, ranked by Northern Hemisphere coverage. January 2008 comes in second to Feburary of 1978.

Row Year Month N. Hemisphere Eurasia N. America N. America
(no Greenland)
1 1978 2 51.35 32.35 19.00 16.85
2 2008 1 50.13 32.30 17.83 15.67
3 1985 1 50.09 31.27 18.83 16.67
4 1979 1 49.98 31.38 18.61 16.46
5 1978 1 49.69 31.34 18.35 16.20
6 1977 1 48.84 31.24 17.61 15.46
7 1972 2 48.83 31.98 16.85 14.71
8 1985 2 48.56 30.29 18.27 16.12
9 2003 2 48.50 30.91 17.59 15.43
10 1967 1 48.49 30.70 17.79 15.63
Table above in millions of square kilometers

Yes, we live in interesting times.

(h/t Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr.)

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45 Responses to Jan08 Northern Hemisphere snow cover: largest anomaly since 1966

  1. Gaudenz Mischol says:

    Just here in western europe January was to warm and February is on the way to be above normal, too. Snow cover in the Swiss alps is quite good an skiing season is running good since early december. I just wish to see some wintery landscape were I live.

  2. chillguy33 says:

    Hi, Anthony,

    Based on your charts, it seems anomalies are frequent.

    When you use the word “anomaly,” are you indicating truly unusual climate; or perhaps are you denoting data which conflicts with certain pop computer science?

    I submit that global cooling is only an anomaly, to those selling carbon credits.

    REPLY: Note that the topic here in this post is “weather”, as indicated by the category below.

  3. BrianMcL says:

    Anthony,
    The weather here in Scotland in January has been very wet and mild, with temperatures as much as 1 deg C above average for the month, further proof of global warming say WWF Scotland.

    Follow the link for the story http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7235857.stm

    I guess this is what is meant by “anomaly” when we consider what has been happening in much of the rest of the Northern hemisphere.

    The good news for Scoland is that once our Government pass this climate change bill our weather will settle back down and we can go back to more “normal” weather, whatever that is, leaving the rest of the world to cope with their anomalous weather.

    Mind you, I remember temperatures of -20 deg C here less than 10 years ago (most of the country froze solid) and to be honest given the choice between warming and cooling I know which type of weather I prefer.

    If nothing else January 2008 proves the climate catastrophists right – we can have warming and cooling in different places at the same time. Mind you, wasn’t weather always a bit like that?

  4. steven mosher says:

    Anomaly is a term of climate science art. It means deviation from
    the “mean” of a peroid of time. For example, GISS chose their period
    as 1950-1981. They calculate a mean for that period and then publish
    “anomalies” from that mean. Other researchers use other periods. HADCRU
    uses 1960-1991. [wait, did I screw up.. is GISS 1960-1991 and hadcru
    1950-1981? ]

  5. Evan Jones says:

    NYC VDW (very damn warm).

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  7. Jim Arndt says:

    Hi,

    Does anyone know the albedo effect of so much snow cover? Could this with a solar minimum cause temperatures to go down even more? Just some basic question that the AGW crowd may have to answer soon.

  8. Robert Coté says:

    There is still snow covering the Topa Topa Mountains above Ojai from the storms several weeks ago. I’ve never seen it persist this long. No matter the State Water Resources spokesperson was on the radio this week explaining how the drought is a long term reality and we need to build more pipes for a future of less water in those pipes. Everyone has an agenda it seems.

  9. Arne Boberg says:

    I hear a lot of talk about “average temperature” and how it is thought to be an indicator of global temperature. Is not temperature already the measurement of average heat content? Wouldn’t “average temperature” be considered the “average of an average”? If so, then how would you take into account total heat content? I am guessing that the global IR maps are a much more reliable indicator of whether the earth is warming or cooling. Recent analyses on IR maps seems to imply that the earth is cooling, not warming.

  10. Joe Black says:

    Is ClimateAudit.org down?

    REPLY: Not down, but the older version of WordPress is having problems with IE browsers, try Firefox.

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  12. CajoleJuice says:

    Yet, it has barely snowed in NYC and Long Island pretty much all winter…I miss the snow.

  13. BrianMcL says:

    Jim,
    Re your snowcover question.

    They’ve already thought of that. You see, global warming models accurately predict both more and less snow, both at higher and lower latitudes and higher and lower altitudes.

    As well as more rain for Scotland.

    Probably.

    Regards,
    Brian

  14. Andrew says:

    Jim, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Albedo is a HUGE effect, and is way too neglected right now.

  15. Joe Black says:

    Is ClimateAudit.org down?

    REPLY: Not down, but the older version of WordPress is having problems with IE browsers, try Firefox.

    It’s working now with no change here (all Firefox, all the time).

    REPLY: yes I rebooted it shortly after your message since it appeared that WP was selectively allowing access for some reason. Soemthing is wrong with the WP setup, though the physical server, Apache, and Linux OS remain working fine.

  16. BrianMcL says:

    Andrew,
    Sorry, but don’t you know that it’s all down to the tiny amount of atmospheric CO2 that’s emitted by industrialised nations ensuring that their populations don’t have to endure the nightmare / utopia (depending on your view of industrialisation) of the first 5000 years or so of recognisable human civilisation?

    Things like solar output and snow albedo are as relevant as agricultural CH4 and cloud cover when it comes to predicting how much global temperaures will increase over the next 100 years.

    Pretty soon you’ll be asking questions like “If it’s warmer now than it’s been for all of recorded history why do glaciers contain the remains of trees?”

  17. MikeRossTky says:

    The Pacific side of Honshu, where much of the Japanese population concentrates, is not known for snow. But in the past two weeks, it has seen snow accumulate on the ground. For pictures http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/graph/20080209/

    Average temperature for January and February 2008 will be much colder than average here in Tokyo.

  18. Bill in Vigo says:

    Here in N E Alabama we had 2 measurable snow events neither one was much one inch or less. but that is the most snow we have had in fact the only accumilation since 2000. I can understand that January 2008 just might be a little cooler than normal. To be honest I do like a little snow here now and then.

    Bill

  19. WD says:

    And all this snow is costing Toronto and region taxpayers money to clean up the streets. See the article at Inside Toronto.

  20. Hasse@Norway says:

    Just read an article in a norwegian newpaper. In afganistan 750 people and 230000 cattle has been killed by the cold.

    For those of you that know norwegian:

    http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/uriks/article2247023.ece

  21. Dodo says:

    Robert Coté, please could you tell us where on Earth your Topa Topa mountains are – or is this a joke? It’s just too irritating that, people consider their home the center of the world and draw conclusions about climate based on what they see from their kitchen window.

    Everybody should think twice and count to three – make it ten – before they drag their local weather into these discussions. There will be no end to this babble before everybody has had the chance to tell the world about wind directions on their farm, be it in Ushuaia, Tripoli or Verhojansk.

    Thanks to Anthony for a truly global coverage, so much missing in the big media nowadays.

  22. John Marshall says:

    All these ‘abnormal’ weather patterns only go to show that the normal criteria is wider than we thought. Yes we do have good evidence that Greenland glaciers had retreated further back up their valleys than now, so it must have been warmer historically. The world has endured CO2 levels much higher than today’s modest levels and even if we burnt all of the fossil fuels available we would not get back to earths highest CO2 levels since most has been sequestered in limestone and not as fossil fuels. CO2 is not a polutant but a plant food. Plants grow better in high CO2 level environments with reduced water requirements. This has got to be a plus when it comes to food crop production.

  23. Stan Needham says:

    Seeing 1978 as the #1 year for snow anomaly brings back some memories. That was the year of the great blizzard that I detailed in a previous thread. It started snowing on a Wednesday night and didn’t stop until Friday morning. When I opened my garage door there was a tiny slit of light about 2 or 3″ wide at the top; the rest was a solid drift nearly 7 feet high. My young daughters (9 & 5 at the time) took my carpenter’s saw and a machete and carefully cut blocks of snow (the 50+ mph wind had packed it solid)) and built a really cool igloo on our patio, where the wind had cleared it almost down to the surface.

    I remember it being reported on the news at the time that the snow cover was so extensive that it was reflecting sunlight back into space. The more it snowed, the colder it got, and the colder it got, the more it snowed. I don’t remember whether or not the weatherman referred to it as albedo back then, but it was something they were definitely concerned about.

    REPLY: 1978 was a very close second for snow cover anomaly. That was also the year of the coal strike, remember that? I had to use snowshoes to make it to the end of the lane for the first and only time in my life that year.

  24. Bernd Felsche says:

    A few things come to mind from the article and observations of what’s presented:

    1. An Atlantic “warming” effect that appears to be keeping things warm enough in North America and Western Europe to diminish the usual snow falls. Beyond that expected from the mega-UHI effects.

    La Nina has only recently kicked off and thermal inertia in shifting the heat around the globe could explain the lack of North Atlantic cooling. The Antarctic Peninsula in the South and the Bering Straits in the North impeding flow the short way around.

    I also seem to remember a recent significant change in Northern Polar circulation of ocean currents; the one that’s thought to have contributed to the past summer’s “anomalous” melt.

    Ocean currents move a great deal of heat around quite rapidly. If there is liittle or no interchange of mass between oceans, then the circulation within an ocean provides the circulation driven (mainly) by solar power.

    One mechanisms may be an increase in Peru Current due to La Nina. That’d notionally reduce the heat exchange to the Cape Horn Current resulting in less cooling of the South Atlantic but more cooling via the Peru Current to central America. But without having measurements of what’s going on in the water right now, it’s at best a hypothesis; biased on the speculative!

    What is likely is that a cooler winter in the Southern hemisphere; that we haven’t had yet due to La Nina this time around, will tend to restore “normality” by losing a lot of the “excess” heat with currents returning to their “usual” magnitudes and locations.

    There is a lot more water in the Southern hemisphere; and that tends to moderate thermal excursions. It appears to be a better “low-pass filter” than the Northern one; because the Oceans are bigger and it’s easier to move the heat around great distances between hot and cold sinks.

    2. I looked at the graph of snowfalls and thought that a “good climatologist” could use the minimum snowfalls of 1980 as a baseline for proving an imminent ice-age. :-)

    3. The term “anomaly” carries with it baggage that doesn’t promote a good understanding. “Variation” is more neutral and doesn’t have the “hidden message” of there being an irregularity. We don’t know what’s regular. Nor do we have more than an inkling of how this stuff works.

  25. fdefoin says:

    Very good article, but to my understanding..this is a normal winter. I am 44 years old and I remember when I was a kid that snow amounts were insane. As I grew up snow got less and less over the years. To me this is a normal Canadian winter.

    Fabian From Quebec Canada

    REPLY: It’s not snow depth, it is areal coverage that is broader this year.

  26. BarryW says:

    The mid-atlantic region has not had a lot of snow while the news this morning said that Boston was well above average and New York City well below. Normally I have enough snow to use the snow blower two or three times a year (D.C. area) and this year I haven’t even started it up.

  27. John Willit says:

    Anytime there is snow on the ground in southern China at 28 degrees N latitude, it is unusual.

  28. Andrew says:

    Dodo, North by Northwest. ;)

    BrianMcL, yes, and silver mines, to!

  29. John M says:

    Anthony (in your reply to Stan Needham), you said:

    “1978 was a very close second for snow cover anomaly. That was also the year of the coal strike, remember that? ”

    Brutal winters and no coal.

    Isn’t that the ideal?

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  31. Jeff in Seattle says:

    As a layman, my question would be; why doesn’t such extensive snow coverage cause an ice age, if the “climate” is so sensitive? Likewise, why doesn’t seasonal warming cause the supposed runaway greenhouse effect? Again, if the climate is so sensitive, and feedbacks are mostly positive, then a jump of 20 degrees average temperature due to seasonal changes should cause all those feedbacks to suddenly fly out of control. Since they don’t, how can 1 or 2 degrees supposedly from CO2 cause those feedbacks to fly out of control as we’re being told?

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  33. Roger from Ventura County says:

    to “Dodo”- The Topa Topa Mountains are in the central part of Ventura County, which is between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties to the west and east, respectively, and Kern County to the north, in southern California, USA.

  34. Robert Coté says:

    Dodo,
    “Ojai” is a unique place name identifier which is why it was included although I’m nearly positive our gracious host knows the Topa Topas personally. Picture. This is a coastal range and probably illustrates the effects of La Niña. There is still snow as of Feb 11th.

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  36. MattN says:

    Ojai: BEAUTIFUL area. Spent 3 months in Camarillo last year on a consulting gig. Robert, send me some Sangiovese from Old Creek Ranch winery please! :)

    Oh, to stay on topic here, don’t you guys know global warming can also mean cooling. Duh!

    :)

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  40. Wakefield Tolbert says:

    Global warming means more vapor in the air in some modeling. Thus the increase in snow. This MIGHT mean larger snowfields for the glaciers for a while too until temps reach such a point after which snow in the coldest latitudes can’t stick any more.

    but no, there is not necessarily an inherent contradiction of snow and global warming. Warming does not mean that Greenland will become the Sahara, only that at the poles you’ll see the results first due to colder objects and land masses heating faster than the southern latitudes.

    Sorry gang. enjoy the snow. But we’re not off the hook just yet just becase kids are playing with more snowmen than ever in cold places like New York.

    Meanwhile down here in SC people are washing cars in short sleeves.

  41. Mark Mahlum says:

    I have a friend who recently explained that global warming has five possible results. First, wetter and colder than normal. Second, wetter and warmer than normal. Third, dryer and colder than normal. Fourth, dryer and warmer than normal. And fifth, normal. Yep, I guess she’s right. WE are definitely causing global warming.

  42. A B. Pouliot says:

    March 26, 2008
    Hi! I’m new here but maybe you can comment on this. I live in Canada, Qc. I have relatives in Quebec city and I cannot remember a year since 1960 they had as much snow. I have some reference over there and I can say that they had a very fast start in december and that it is still snowing regularly and still very cold (-16C yesterday morning). I heard that they are about to beat a record standing since 1867 or so.

    I read here that the Artic ice cover would have noticably recover from 2007 summer. Well, …how’s that fitting with an “obvious” climate global warming?

    I look for snow cover stats for Quebec city on the Internet and even on Environment Canada site could not find clear results. Where can I find this ? I also looked for other sites in Canada and was surprised to see that for many of them, stats don’t go back farther than 1940 or so … I mean, do we have valid data to evaluate climate change …?

    Have a good day

  43. Michael says:

    Why don’t you do a story on the new weekly record low just set? These are all the week nine snow coverage extents since 1967. Data courtesy of Rutgers University. http://climate.rutgers.edu/snowcover/table_area.php?ui_set=0&ui_sort=0

    2008 38.63
    2007 46.70
    2006 43.41
    2005 44.67
    2004 43.45
    2003 47.10
    2002 43.13
    2001 44.16
    2000 41.73
    1999 44.24
    1998 42.47
    1997 43.00
    1996 44.62
    1995 41.67
    1994 42.09
    1993 46.49
    1992 41.54
    1991 44.62
    1990 39.79
    1989 43.37
    1988 42.75
    1987 47.44
    1986 45.38
    1985 46.75
    1984 44.21
    1983 43.87
    1982 44.90
    1981 43.01
    1980 46.83
    1979 47.77
    1978 48.34
    1977 43.93
    1976 43.89
    1975 43.16
    1974 43.23
    1973 43.34
    1972 42.62
    1971 46.55
    1970 43.70
    1969 45.79
    1968 42.55
    1967 47.40

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