Debunking National Wildlife Federation Claims – Part 2

Both WUWT and Climate Audit had posts regarding the ridiculous WaPo story about snowfall being a result of climate change.

This is a follow up to those posts done by guest contributor Steven Goddard.

One of the  NWF claims about global warming is that snow in the Colorado mountains is diminishing and has become very erratic, as seen in the NWF graphic at left.

click for a larger image

In this article I will show that the claim is incorrect – Colorado snowfall has been generally increasing for the last hundred years and that year over year variability has always been extremely high.

Fortunately, there are excellent long term records of snowfall available from  NOAA’s Western Regional Climate Center. I chose the  Crested Butte, Colorado station because it is centrally located in the mountains (so is representative of a wide region) and has the most complete and continuous snow record of every month for the past 100 years.   I have randomly sampled quite a few other stations in Colorado.  None seem to have as a complete a record as Crested Butte, and the pattern described for Crested Butte seems to be fairly consistent in the mountainous regions of the state.

Below are graphs showing  annual and monthly snowfall totals (in inches) for Crested Butte since 1909.  The trend lines were generated using Google Spreadsheet’s linest() function. Note that every month is trending upwards in snowfall and the standard deviation is very high.  Also note that there were several very dry years early in the 20th century with very little snow – and the last few decades have seen more consistent snowfall.  Since 1981, every year has received more than 100 inches of snow.  Prior to 1930, it was not uncommon to have snow years with less than 100 inches of snow.  Prior to 1930, the average annual snowfall was 177 inches.  Since 1930, the average annual snowfall has been 200 inches – a 10% increase.

Note – the raw data is incorrect for 1910, 1919, and 1924 due to a significant number of missing measurements, so I substituted a calculated annual value based on the trend line. This probably overestimates the snowfall for 1919 and 1924, and is thus conservative.

Click images below for full-sized ones.

Standard deviation = 67  Mean = 195  Trend = +7.7 inches per decade

Mean = 23.4  Standard Deviation = 15.1

Standard deviation = 25.9  Mean = 33.5

Standard deviation = 27.9  Mean = 38.4

Standard deviation = 19.3  Mean = 33.5

Standard deviation = 18.2  Mean = 31.0

Standard deviation = 13.1  Mean = 16.9

In summary, snowfall is increasing annually and we see upward trends in the months of “snowfall season” in Colorado.  Year over year variability has always been very high and may actually be lower in recent years. And, the Colorado mountains no longer have extremely low snow years like they did 80 years ago. By the data, it seems the NWF claims are unfounded.


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Henry chance

Having spent a lot of time in the mountains in all 4 seasons, it is very erratic and always has been. What is with these clowns? Stringing a lot of anecdotes together doesn’t generate data. The plural of anecdote is not data.
If they wanted to try to be more honest, they would greatly increase the number of ski reports in their system.


Intuitively it seems like increased high mountain snowfall would be consistent with warming SST. More evaporation at sea surface, more precipitation at higher/cooler altitudes. The point that the NWF is wrong remains valid, but it seems to me like they had it backward to start with.

Alan S. Blue

“the raw data is incorrect for 1910, 1919, and 1924 due to a significant number of missing measurements, so I substituted”
The data analysis would seem to be insensitive to the absence of data for those years. The practice of infilling everywhere leads to the long discussions over whether the appropriate method of infilling, and determining levels of autocorrelation, etc.
The simple: “Bad Data, dropped” approach should work fine – the only change being the discontinuity in the line chart. A scatter plot wouldn’t have that issue if that’s a concern.
Apologies if this seems overly persnickety, the infilling approaches throughout the surface records have me a little irked at its overuse.

Well, who are you going to believe? The NWF or your lying eyes? Their claims, or hard data?
(Looks at funding appeal from NWF that came in the mail. Shoves into recycling bin.)


Looking at the annual detail, especially at the minimums (minima?), it seems like there was increase from 1910 through 1994, and snowfall may be againn in decline since 1994. Measured SST has only been in decline since about 2005. Hmm. Is minimum snowfall a leading indicator? Lets have some input from more knowledgable people.

D. King

From the NWF website
“Oddball winter weather is yet another sign of how uncontrolled carbon pollution amounts to an unchecked experiment on people and nature,” said Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist, National Wildlife Federation. …”
Wow, another scientist’s reputation circling the drain.

I track snow fall and “snow depth days” (the sum of snow depths over the season) at for several locations around New England. From the relatively little data I have, it’s clear that both metrics are hugely variable and data for individual seasons are remarkable but say nothing about trends.
05/06 was light for me in Penacook NH (just north of Concord), the next year broke many records for me and for the NWS. This year (not posted) is likely going to be light with the storm track well south of here. Like today, and like the post-Copenhagen storm that welcomed the President home.
Snowfall measurements are also questionable and what’s done now is likely not what was done 80 years ago. Snow depth water content measurements are likely much more reliable.
One good long term reference point in New England is the Mt Mansfield snow stake in Stowe VT, there’s an interactive web site that has its data back to 1954. Seee If you enable the “NEW! Generate bar graphs of seasonal totals” it plots totals for each year which are just as variable as at Crested Butte.
1988 is interesting – it has the least snowfall, but the snow depth remained above average. That might have been a cold year, I don’t recall.
A few years ago there were several stories about how skiing was doomed here thanks to warming. November was a warm month here and ski areas opened late. Somewhat to my surprise I don’t think I heard a single story here blaming it on global warming. It may be people were just thankful it wasn’t snowy like 06/07. A lot of us had run out of places to put snow by the end of December that season!

Steve Goddard

Climate models forecast less snow for Colorado, not more snow. University of Colorado professor Mark Williams issued this doom and gloom prediction in the middle of one of the best ski seasons on record.


Be prepared for a major round of climate alarmism for the 2010 Olympics here in Vancouver. We have had an extremely warm January, with high freezing levels. Most of the snow at the local mountain that will host the freestyle skiing events has melted. They are hauling snow by truck and helicopter to get the runs ready. The cause has been El Nino conditions, but of course, global warming will get the major billing. NBC is already setting up for the Today show at a neighboring mountain, where the brown patches are larger than the white.


Well done. Unfortunately, if I’m interpreting your post and NWF claims correctly, I don’t think NWF is making the claim you attribute to them. They say something like spring snow pack was 50% below normal in 2007 and 80% above normal in 2008.
The data is still valuable. It shows yet again that nothing is really going on that is beyond what might be expected due to natural variability.

Steve Goddard

You probably should reread the first article in this series:
NCDC snow report from the winter of 2007-2008 Numerous ski resorts in the West reported record breaking snowfall this year, as did parts of northern Maine. Caribou, Maine received 197.8 inches (502 cm) of snowfall this winter, shattering the previous record of 181.1 inches (460 cm).
Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado received 418 inches (1061 cm) during the 2007-08 winter, breaking the previous record of 415 inches (1054 cm) from 1979-1980. Even Spokane, Washington was the second-snowiest on record with 89.5 inches (227 cm), four inches (10 cm) short of the previous record from 1949-1950. The map to the right depicts the snowpack levels in many Rocky Mountain basins on May 1, 2008, illustrating a residual near to above average snow cover over much of the Rockies and Cascades in the western U.S. Thirty-two Snowtel locations reported record snow water equivalent records by the end of April.
NCDC snow report from the winter of 2008-2009
Across North America, snow cover for the 2008-09 winter was above average, with the 12th largest extent since satellite records began in 1967.


Murray (09:06:37) :
“Intuitively it seems like increased high mountain snowfall would be consistent with warming SST”
Murry, my intuition tells me that our “climate” is not that sensitive, and a one degree linear change would not have any profound effects.
If it did, the normal up and down swings, which are much more, would have disastrous effects.

Mark S

@ Murray (09:13:03)
Colorado suffered a drought lasting about 7 years. It largely ended a couple of years ago. The southwestern part of the state was slower to recover but appears to be back on track. The Wolf Creek Pass ski area is reporting a 114 inch base. That’s in line with the norm before the drought.


My mistake. I went back to part 1 and found the following

The spatial extent of snow cover across the Northern Hemisphere has decreased by approximately 3 to 9 percent since 1978, with especially rapid declines in the western United States

I live in South Colorado mountains (San Juan), and we are having a record snowfall this winter. A little avalanche just dropped from the roof of my house with terrible noise, and ruined two sturdy metal fence links of the dog kennel in the backyard. Luckily, dogs were inside at that moment. This year the snow cover never melted from November until end of January — first time in my memory (since 1991). Our driveway, cleared three times this year by our neighbor who has a powerful tractor with a snow shovel, resembles a shady tunnel between two snow walls.
Last year was very snowy, also. During the three or four drought years (end of 1990s and early 2000s) there was much less snow around, and it didn’t stay long on the ground. Before, during the first half of the 1990s, there was almost as much snow as now — I remember how a similar “roof avalanche” destroyed my bloody expensive aluminum ping-pong table: smashed it as if it were a paper bag.
Any claim that Colorado has less snow now than a decade before would contradict obvious factual observations.


No doubt, there will be a claim of cherry picking data for this article, despite it being the most complete and longest snow record in the state.

Carl Lewis

I agree with Alan S. Blue — DO NOT INFILL TO REPLACE MISSING DATA. No matter how acurate your method is it is still NOT the original data and it provides amo for the greennies to cast doubt on the rest of your research.

Ron de Haan

Stil, NWF, WWF, GreenPeace GIGO AGW propaganda reports are all over the newspapers and tv.
It gives “Freedom of Press” and “Quality Media” a whole other meaning.
Boy, am I glad we have the Internet!


That fits well with the diminishing global absolute humidity. The planet is cooling = more precipitation = smaller absolute humidity.

Ben D

Let that be a kick in their “crested Butte”

Doug in Seattle

The former WA State Climatologist, Phil Mote, produced a series of reports to the Governor of the state which claimed a significant drop in snow pack in the latter half of the 20th century.
Mote’s study was used by the Governor to create a panic over water supplies. It came out later that the Mote had cut off the data at a time of unusually high snowfall in the early 1950’s, thus creating an artificial downward trend. When data from 1930’s and 1940’s were added to the analysis the trend disappeared giving a flat trend.
Rather than own up to the cherry picking, Mote had the person who publicized the “trick” fired (he was the Deputy State Climatologist). Another expert, Cliff Mass of the UW had his reputation trashed.
The Governor ultimately ignored the truth. Phil Mote is now the State Climatologist of Oregon (after their Governor fired the previous one for not following the party line on AGW).

I did a quick stop at KNMI and plucked off the NCDC precipitation anomalies for 35N-45N, 115W-105W, approximating the coordinates of the Rockies, from Jan 1900 to Dec 2009. They didn’t have a long-term snow dataset.
You can’t miss the El Nino events.


MattN wrote (09:35:25):
No doubt, there will be a claim of cherry picking data for this article, despite it being the most complete and longest snow record in the state.
The cherry picking was done by NWF. If you look at the blockquote I posted at 9:32 and then check the annual Crested Butte Annual Snowfall graph above, you will see that 1979 had the highest annual snowfall ever.

Bill in AZ

More weather is not climate: Vancouver is trucking in snow for the Olympics, while one of Arizona’s ski areas, Sunrise Ski Resort, was closed last week for 3 days due to – too much snow (and power outage caused by – too much snow). 96 inches of snow fell between Tuesday and Friday of last week – and more has fallen since.

R. Gates

In the final analysis of the proof or lack thereof of global warming, the snowpack levels at Crested Butte Colorado mean nothing. January 2010 will go down as the warmest global temps on record…and unless there is a major volcanic eruption this year, 2010 will most likely be the warmest year on record. And by the way, Increased snowfall is one of the initial effects of Global Warming (i.e. more heat = more evaporation), before the temperatures go up so much as to turn that snow to rain…

Steve Oregon

Here in Oregon and Washington every conceivable weather event gets spun into evidence of global along with many completely fabricated events, fabricated conditions and concocted links.
Officials at every level, at every institution participate.
The collective mass of misinformation and advocacy is an astounding demonstrate of wholesale deceit.
We have supportive groups like the The Oregon Environmental Council piling on with even worse claims.
“land on the central and northern Oregon coast is being submerged by rising sea level”
Of course there is simply no part of the Oregon coast which has been or is being lost to AGW rising sea levels.

Henry chance

If carbon emissions increase, the average temperature at Park City will be 10.4 degrees warmer by 2100, and there likely will be no snowpack, according to the study. Skiing at Aspen, with an average temperature 8.6 degrees higher than now, will be marginal.

My baloney detector is when they write of “carbon emissions” If they don’t know enoug to wroite “carbon dioxide emissions” they prove they don’t have an honest clue.
Carbon emissions are black for the most part and carbon dioxide emissions are invisible.
Even the mis informed chairman Immelt from GE calls it carbon and not carbon dioxide. We can often go to a different resort in Colorado if one has some new powder over night and another doesn’t.
Indirectly I am referring to the mountains and their incredible disruption of wind patterns. CO2 emissions do not disrupt wind patterns. Wind has incredible impact on over night differences in snowfall in Colorado

Henry chance

Ben D (09:42:17) :
Let that be a kick in their “crested Butte
Boot in the Butte.

Steve Oregon

Mar 29, 2008 – 06:00 AM
Mt. Hood Meadows Sets Ski Resort Season Snowfall Record
Mt. Hood, OR – With a 17-inch 24-hour snowfall total Friday night, Oregon’s Mt. Hood Meadows broke its own season snowfall record of 623 inches.
That season Mt Hood’s Timbeline Lodge had even more over the season with a 246 inch base at it’s peak in early spring.

Steve Goddard

“Spring snowpack” is a favorite worry of AGW types, but is not a particularly important concept any more – because of large reservoirs on the Colorado River which don’t care if the snow melted in May or June.

Robert M Marshall

I lived in the Birkshires in western Massachusetts 1975 -1977 and remember well the 76-677 down spike. New England was swamped with cowboy hats at the ski slopes. News resport suspected some nefarious climate shift that would destroy Colorado’s ski industry. as you can see, they recovered the next season.


Ric Werme (09:22:13) :
Snow depth water content cannot serve as a one size fits all metric due to significant regional variations. In the Pacific NW rain-on-snow events that result in a high water content are common events. I suspect the same is true for the New England states. Conversely, in the Rockies the snow has a relatively low water content since rain in the snow zone is rare. The result is that snow quantification comparisons are difficult.

Steve Goddard

R. Gates,
Your claim that “2010 will most likely be the warmest year on record.” has been duly noted. I will remind you of that later in the year, maybe even honor you with an article!


There is an insightful article on the BBC website today:
Why do people often vote against their own interests?
“For Mr Westen, stories always trump statistics, which means the politician with the best stories is going to win”
WWF generates stories not facts and you can’t argue with stories. Urban legends persist, superstitions persist, myths persist (and some of those even become religions). This is why we need science. Too bad the science in this field has been infiltrated by story tellers.

Robert M Marshall

Sorry for the mis-keyed entry. To continue, this is worse than mere cherry-picking data. The alarmists are good at ‘disinforming the public by proposing that anything off ‘average’ is a trend. The true ‘odd-ball event’ would be average weather, every day, every year. No doubt the NWF thought Anthony cherry-picked the November and December 2009 temperature record setting low lows and low highs (literally thousands). Since both cold and warm, drought and flood foreshadow climate “Change,” they will never run out of material until the real “Odd Ball Event”, “Stagnant Average” occurs. Meanwhile, experts agree that temperatures will soar above 100F in many US locations by the end of June. Unless we act NOW, at that rate, rivers will be boiling this time next year.

Phillip Bratby
Steve Goddard

The interesting thing for me in this exercise was to see that the late 1990s drought still saw lots more snow than many years the early part of the 20th century.

Don B

Two researchers at Oregon State University in 2006 published a study predicting much less snowfall in the Oregon Cascades in the future due to global warming, but since then the opposite has happened. Commenters above have noted recent record snowfalls.
Whistler, site of some of next month’s Olympics, has already had nearly 400″ of snowfall for the season, close to its seasonal average.

Robert M Marshall

Kinda reminds me of Garrison Keillor’s, “Lake Woebegon, where all of the children are above average.” I think some of these folks took that seriously.

Claude Harvey

I hope all of you realize your comments identify you as “enemies of the state”. If you lived in Venezuela, Hugo would already be knocking on your doors. The EPA has officially declared the government’s position on this general matter and whether we have more snow or less snow makes no difference to that political reality.
We can drag our collective feet until they smoke, this wagon is headed resolutely toward ruinous CO2 regulation and forced “green power” regardless of the economic consequences. Not to be left behind in the rush, a California State Representative just introduced legislation in Sacramento to ban free parking everywhere! He denied the proposal constituted a tax and insisted it would encourage “better behavior” by encouraging (forcing) folks to walk, ride bicycles and use public transportation.
Big Brother is watching YOU! (In order to see that you to behave.)


I find it strange that a statutory body is allowed donate taxpayers funds to a Non Government Organization for no apparent service.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
2008 Annual Report

Pamela Gray

I agree. A scatter plot is a better method of showing an incomplete data series, when missing data is not a key ingredient to trends, which in the case of highly variable data, is true.


Steve, I’m curious to know if you’ve tried contacting the NWF to confront them with this analysis. Doubtful you will get a response, or a best a defensive display of chaff, but they really ought to be held accountable for misinformation.

R. Gates,
We desperately need some warming — so, if there is some (unlikely, so far it existed only on paper in the corrupt and self-serving governmental institutions), please don’t try to stop it!

Pamela Gray

We have the likelyhood of a La Nina for the summer, allowing cold air to be driven over the states via a ride on the Jet stream, so I don’t see 2010 having “hottest year on record” potential. In addition, that pesky AO continues to bounce down into negative measurements, allowing cold air in from the North. My forecast is that 2010 will be average to cool due to summer weather. Great year for peas and other cool weather crops.

Steve Goddard

I’d love to confront NWF, but have had too much snow and ice in the driveway to get out of the house. (Just kidding.) Sounds like a good idea.

Robert M Marshall

“For Mr Westen, stories always trump statistics, which means the politician with the best stories is going to win”
While that point may be true, that site is a terrible example to prove it. Mr. Frank is the consumate story teller, convinced that voters are too stupid to vote in their best interest. Rather, they are being reminded of the follies of history and standing up to say “not only No, Heck NO! They feel the same about Climate change as they do public mandated health care. They see Liberties being trashed by power hungry Zelots, both in Congress, the Whitehouse, and the UN.

R. Gates

Steve Goddard:
I welcome it. We can all track the progress of how warm 2010 is here:
January has been remarkably warmer and with the La Nina of earlier in year of 2009 and the solar minimum now behind us, and CO2 and methane now at record levels, there is nothing preventing 2010 from really cooking (short of, as I said previously, a major volcanic erpution of the level of Pinatubo in 1991.)
Let’s put it this way, if I were a betting person, I would bet there is far better than even odds chance that 2010 will be the warmest year globally on record. (as measured at sea level up to about 46.000 ft.)

A C Osborn

Phillip Bratby (10:18:47) :
OT, but please everybody go and read Prof Philip Stott at:
It is a lovely summation of the current state of play, so is the link to the Timesonline piece
I wonder how many of the Timesonline pieces actually get in to print?

Has the ‘mole man’ checked in yet and refuted with fact, with analysis the substance and the detail in this post?
I thought not …
Probably yucking it up with his chums over at (David) “Fenton media” – Environmental Media Services (EMS) affiliated RC ( for the ‘damage’ he thinks he ‘inflicted’ here yesterday.
Truth about
The now defunct Environmental Media Services history now known as the Science Communication Network (SCN)