Counterintuitive claim: Slower snowmelt in a warming world

From the NATIONAL CENTER FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH/UNIVERSITY CORPORATION FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH and the “eh, it’s a model projection” department, comes this claim. So, if it melts earlier, but then melts more slowly, it would seem to cancel out. I’m sure though somebody will find a crisis in this somewhere.


Slower snowmelt in a warming world

When snowpack melts earlier, it also melts more slowly, new study finds

As the world warms, mountain snowpack will not only melt earlier, it will also melt more slowly, according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The counterintuitive finding, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, could have widespread implications for water supplies, ecosystem health, and flood risk.

“When snowmelt shifts earlier in the year, the snow is no longer melting under the high sun angles of late spring and early summer,” said NCAR postdoctoral researcher Keith Musselman, lead author of the paper. “The Sun just isn’t providing enough energy at that time of year to drive high snowmelt rates.”

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR’s sponsor.

The findings could explain recent research that suggests the average streamflow in watersheds encompassing snowy mountains may decline as the climate warms — even if the total amount of precipitation in the watershed remains unchanged. That’s because the snowmelt rate can directly affect streamflow. When snowpack melts more slowly, the resulting water lingers in the soil, giving plants more opportunity to take up the moisture. Water absorbed by plants is water that doesn’t make it into the stream, potentially reducing flows.

Musselman first became interested in how snowmelt rates might change in the future when he was doing research in the Sierra Nevada. He noticed that shallower, lower-elevation snowpack melted earlier and more slowly than thicker, higher-elevation snowpack. The snow at cooler, higher elevations tended to stick around until early summer — when the Sun was relatively high in the sky and the days had grown longer — so when it finally started to melt, the melt was rapid.

Musselman wondered if the same phenomenon would unfold in a future climate, when warmer temperatures are expected to transform higher-elevation snowpack into something that looks much more like today’s lower-elevation snowpack. If so, the result would be more snow melting slowly and less snow melting quickly.

To investigate the question, Musselman first confirmed what he’d noticed in the Sierra by analyzing a decade’s worth of snowpack observations from 979 stations in the United States and Canada. He and his co-authors — NCAR scientists Martyn Clark, Changhai Liu, Kyoko Ikeda, and Roy Rasmussen — then simulated snowpack over the same decade using the NCAR-based Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model.

Once they determined that the output from WRF tracked with the observations, they used simulations from the model to investigate how snowmelt rates might change in North America around the end of the century if climate change continues unabated.

“We found a decrease in the total volume of meltwater — which makes sense given that we expect there to be less snow overall in the future,” Musselman said. “But even with this decrease, we found an increase in the amount of water produced at low melt rates and, on the flip side, a decrease in the amount of water produced at high melt rates.”

While the study did not investigate the range of implications that could come from the findings, Musselman said the impacts could be far-reaching. For example, a reduction in high melt rates could mean fewer spring floods, which could lower the risk of infrastructure damage but also negatively affect riparian ecosystems. Changes in the timing and amount of snowmelt runoff could also cause warmer stream temperatures, which would affect trout and other fish species, and the expected decrease in streamflow could cause shortages in urban water supplies.

“We hope this study motivates scientists from many other disciplines to dig into our research so we can better understand the vast implications of this projected shift in hydrologic patterns,” Musselman said.

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131 thoughts on “Counterintuitive claim: Slower snowmelt in a warming world

    • Does this Muscleman guy ever go look at real snow? Sometimes, it sublimes, y’know. Sometimes, aliens just steal it.
      Oh, yeah – is he aware that around 7,000 years ago, there weren’t any glaciers at all in the European Alps? And – oh, golly, Miss Molly! — we’re still here! Holy cow! I’ll bet that will give him the vapors!

      • Sara, maybe some, but mostly not. Here is the quote:
        “Once they determined that the output from WRF tracked with the observations, they used simulations from the model to investigate how snowmelt rates might change in North America around the end of the century if climate change continues unabated.”

        And, “tracked” what does that mean? It can track low, right on, or high. Or it can track for a few months or years then go amiss. Tracked within 10%, 100%, 200%? At all those observed stations?
        Now that the model “tracks” these observed data fro the database, let’s extend it to all of North America almost a hundred years from now using a simulation model. What could possibly go wrong.
        Finally, the “perpetual” drought in California turning to massive rain and snow should indicate the level of uncertainty in their predictions through the end of the century.

      • Yes, Leonard, and I have a friend who is a Forest Service firefighter in California. His response to the whole business of ‘surprise! end of drought!’ was that the older Forest Service workers knew the drought would end this year or the next, but they were ignored because their knowledge of drought cycles doesn’t fit the hysterics.
        They were right. The ‘expuurrts’ were wrong. Surprise! Heavy storms sweep California!

      • It would seem to me that, intuitive or counterintuitive wouldn’t care either way, if a warming world meant slower snow melt with an earlier melt season then that melt water would be more inclined to replenish groundwater rather than cause flooding and erosion which in turn would be beneficial rather than detrimental to the biosphere

      • Quoting article:

        “When [mountain] snowmelt shifts earlier in the year, the snow is no longer melting under the high sun angles of late spring and early summer,” said NCAR postdoctoral researcher Keith Musselman, lead author of the paper. “The Sun just isn’t providing enough energy at that time of year to drive high snowmelt rates.”

        That is one amazing statement by NCAR postdoctoral researcher Keith Musselman.

        So, iffen the winter snowfall starts melting in early spring due to air temperature increases ….. it will slow up or quit melting in late spring and early summer when the air temperatures are really hot.

        But iffen the winter snowfall didn’t start melting because the early spring air temperature remained cool/cold ….. that winter snowfall won’t begin melting until late spring and early summer after the air temperatures have increased to being hot.

      • Samuel, I don’t see your problem. If the snow has melted slowly before late spring it is not there to melt quickly when the sun gets on it (or where it was until it melted). I don’t know whether this happens, but it seems plausible.

      • it is not there to melt quickly when the sun gets on it

        Seaice1, ……. getta clue, ……. solar irradiance (Sunshine) does not directly cause snow or snowpack to melt …….. primarily because the snow or snowpack reflects the solar irradiance.

  1. counterintuitive finding

    1. Counter reality

    Deceptively incorrect use of term “counterintuitive”

    2. “finding” — not.

    To be a “finding,” there must be something (outside one’s imagination) “found.”

    In a word: “junk.”

    • It does make sense that snow that melts earlier will melt more slowly. It’s also true that when all the snow melts quickly, there will be flooding. This sounds like basic hydrology.

      The paper doesn’t sound wrong. It just sounds like something that engineers have understood for a long time. In what way is this paper new information? What am I missing?

      • Unlike “Kenji’s” accurate comment below (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/02/27/counterintuitive-claim-slower-snowmelt-in-a-warming-world/#comment-2438234 ), the paper simply assumes that slower snowmelt happens due to a “warming world.” There is NO data to support the paper’s cause-effect assertion. Thus, it is not a real thing Musselman has “observed,” i.e., not a gee whiz, counterintuitive, but real “finding.” It is his mere speculation (based on grossly misinterpreting what YOU and “Kenji” know to be hydrological fact).

        There has been no increased rainfall event frequency (no matter how many times Mike Maguire keeps trying to tell us so — I have posted cites refuting his assertions at least 3 times on WUWT) over the past several decades. Thus, “Kenji” put a “sarc” after that statement about > rainfall in his comment.

        So:

        1. IF there were actually significant “global warming” happening; AND
        2. IF there were a corresponding increase in rainfall events (it would be expected to, but, it has not happened….. not warming enough, so…..);
        3. AND IF that paper were asserting the above (it is not), THEN, the paper’s “findings” about snowmelt would be worth looking into.

        Thank you, cBob for so diligently, faithfully, correcting my potential errors here on WUWT.

      • It just sounds like something that engineers have understood for a long time. In what way is this paper new information? What am I missing?

        That scientist are not engineers.

      • commiebob: Maybe this?
        “We hope this study motivates scientists from many other disciplines to dig into our research so we can better understand the vast implications of this projected shift in hydrologic patterns,” Musselman said.

        Send more money please?

      • Janice Moore February 27, 2017 at 12:50 pm

        … To be a “finding,” there must be something (outside one’s imagination) “found.”

        I was faithfully and diligently agreeing with you and elaborating on what you said. The paper finds nothing that isn’t already well known.

        I have seen many papers with extensive literature reviews that manage to miss the fact that the paper’s content is already covered in undergraduate engineering textbooks. If these scientists got out more and associated with people outside their very narrow specialties they might avoid that kind of thing. You don’t have to be a hydrologist to know that hydrology deals with snow melt or that snow melt often causes flooding in North Dakota.

  2. dig into our research

    Uh, heh. — No, thanks.

    Bobbes, Gozer, Kika, and Chubby will do that analsysis for us.

    (youtube)

    Conclusion (of Bobbes, et al.): This stuff STINKS. (but, boy, did we have fun!)

    #(:))

    • Thanks Janice, I see I am not the only one who has a dog that enjoys horse poop. I quit taking my dog to the barn because he always came back to the truck a nice green color, and got to ride in the bed. Somehow I think he was thinking “this is as good as it gets for a dog”. Sorry if this seems off topic. We were talking about excrement, right?

      • Somehow I think he was thinking “this is as good as it gets for a dog”” unless there’s a dead skunk to roll around on. :-)

        I live in CA. Some years ago, a dead grey whale washed up on the beach, just south of San Francisco. My brother Mike and I went to take a look. We could smell the carcass while still a mile away.

        At the site, two men with a tractor and large fletching knives were carving it up, and hauling away the huge slices. The whale was big enough that only the men’s heads were visible when they stepped into it.

        The stench close up was almost blinding. Several people were there with their dogs. Every single dog was straining at the end of the leash trying to get to the whale. There’s no doubt but that a celebration of the wholly rollers was in every doggy mind.

    • My dog Jake would lick the rear end of cows just for a fresh meal. That dog is downright disgusting! Oh, and he loves cow snot too.

  3. …recent research that suggests the average streamflow in watersheds encompassing snowy mountains may decline as the climate warms…

    And there’s your alarmist take-away. It’s worserer than we thought.

    • Every time I see an “it’s worse that we thought” I wonder if the individual making that statement realizes that he just confirmed that his first thought was incorrect. Therefore, why should I put any credence in the second thought? I’m dealing with somebody who thought wrong in the first place, but now he’s thinking right? One out of two ain’t bad? Come on!!! I only believe those who say “it’s exactly as we first thought.

      • Back in the day we had a phrase for that.
        “Thought $hit a brick and thought his a$$ was square.”
        Nonsensical I know, but that was the whole point of it.

    • Yeh, the rain and the wind
      Then ignore all the dirt texture along a couple of miles of ridge and gullies, sand and clay
      Might as well try and model trajectories in the average ladies toilet over six Saturday nights
      Good luck modelling that!

  4. Geeze … I don’t even have a fancy computer model to comprehend by DIRECT OBSERVATION that the single most important factor in snowmelt is RAIN. When it RAINS on the snowpack (obviously caused by a warming globe – sarc. off) The snow melts and refreezes as ICE. ICE melts much slower than light, fluffy, SNOW. This year, as most years, there has been considerable rainfall on an already heavy snowpack. Not only do I suspect that means the snow will linger LONG into the Summer … so does Squaw Valley who promise to be open for skiing till July this year.

    • Along similar lines, if they really want to know how snow melts under different conditions they should just talk to ski area operators, and the explanation will probably start out as something like “snow is not snow is not snow.”

      • I’m not a ski area operator. Just a Canadian with 60 years of snow experience and two eyes. Snow melt speed has a number of factors. For one, as the melt proceeds the deeper or higher snow is also warming and accumulating heat of phase change prior to actually melting. At the same time, the frost depth is retreating toward the surface so that sometime after the surface melt has started the remaining snow begins to melt from below as well. The frost depth can vary a great deal from year to year . Early cold without snow will cause it to go deeper than normal; while early snow will prevent the frost from penetrating too deep. A winter with little snow accumulation thus quite often means a late thaw while a winter with lots of snow will insulate the ground, reducing frost depth and making for an earlier ground thaw. Until the ground is thawed the melt water can only accumulate or run off. On top of all that, the later into the year you go the more likely it is that you will have rain. Nothing eats snow like rain. This guy should get out of the lab and try farming til he goes broke, which would be about one year.

    • Kenji! How super, duper, pooper scooper, great to hear from you. A card carrying member of the UCS (Union for Concerned Scientists), no less! :)

      For anyone relatively new to WUWT, here is Kenji!
      (he is a Japanese Chin)

      I don’t take nothin’ off NO-body!

      (See this WUWT article: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/10/07/friday-funny-the-newest-member-of-the-union-of-concerned-scientists/ )

      He knows what he is talking about, too — he has very good sources…. :)

      • Ha ha ha ha Janice … you know what they say about dogs “looking like” their owners ? Well, I don’t know about YOU … but your cute little Toy of a doggie sure does LOOK Like THIS namesake. Spitting image … and the same BACK OFF JACK personality

  5. In a warmer world there would be more moisture in the atmosphere. That will still drop out when the air is pushed up by a mountain.
    Therefore global warming will increase the snow cover on high mountains.

    Now let me express this hypothesis in computer code, call it a model and then we can pretend I’ve observed something.

      • Hi Janice.
        He’s the same. Not getting any worse. So that’s OK.
        Hope all is well with you and yours.

      • Thanks for responding, Matt. Will keep praying (for his physical comfort/peace, etc., if not healing). And thank you for your kind wishes.

    • And you can get humongeous grants from taxpayers.
      NB – Not in the USA, if EPA evisceration proceeds as per schedule.

      Auto

      • Discretionary spending FY 2015 was 1.11 trillion. DoD was ~540 billion. So the rest was 570 billion. 9.5% net cut. Very doable even if some things (IRS, NIH) not touched and others maybe increased (VA). Foreign aid alone is $35 billion. NASA spends ~$2 billion on Earth science mostly duplicating NOAA. Food stamps (SNAP) $74 billion in 2015 and allows junk food purchases. Lose sugary soda and chips and save maybe $5 billion, not to mention reduced Medicaid because reduced obesity and diabetes. And so on, and on, and on. Trump is a business guy, not a politician. He will make hismteam ‘get it’. We will need earplugs to reduce wailing decibels.
        I once was advisor to a corporate team that cut 12% in six months. It was that or bankruptcy. And since ‘raw materials’ were 55% of costs in that manufacturing company, it was actually a 27% cut in discretionary costs. 6 months, done. Amazing what an organization can do without when the alternative is ‘death’.
        3G used ZBB to cut Kraft overhead 30% in two years.
        This overall budget cut will help drain the swamp. Swamp critters get cut first.

    • Making jets, helicopters, tanks and the transportation vehicles, I assume is still manpower intensive, which is generally good for the economy. Making nukes and missiles is probably just as costly but may not employ as many.

      • vukcevic February 27, 2017 at 1:21 pm

        Not sure on that. With CNCs we can make more parts, and with assembly robots assemble faster, but we still need operators (baby sitters) for the machines. You are not really doing away with people, just changing their tasks. As for Nukes vs conventional weapons, a “tomahawk” missile is the same cost irregardless of the warhead type. But it is pretty clear which can give you more bang for your “buck”

        And Vuk, we do need to build new delivery systems, the minuteman 3 is soo 1970s ish. Out of style you know like bell-bottoms and pet rocks. Also they are simply old and because the motors use solid fuel there are reliability issues. The missiles themselves are older then the silo personal.

        michael

        yes I am all for updating and upgrading the “triad”.

      • Question is whether we need a triad. in my opinion, no. Nuc subs (Trident) suffice for deterence. We are starting a new strategic bomber program, dual use (most bombs arent nucs and there are still places worth bombing). Land silos are all targeted by the enemy already, so creates a horrific Norad go/nogo decision of about 30 minutes. Not good. And from five sided foxhole,perspective, Air Force and Navy still each have a hand. Just retire the Missilier badge created by my father at LeMay’s behest. Dad pinned the first on LeMay. LeMay pinned the second on Dad. Lies now at Arlington, buried with full honors and a 21 gun salute. I have the Missilier Badge plus his neck order (in the military, there are just two: wartime Medal of Honor, peacetime Legion of Merit) safe kept for future generations, with the explanations written into his eulogy and the written supplement passed out at his church funeral at which the Badge and Neck Order were displayed.
        OTH, rebuilding/ modernizing the nucs themselves should be a priority. I was at Los Alamos on business about a decade ago and have seen the pit disassembly robots (tactile), and heard a (trench, ~5 miles away) explosion of the now unreliable implosion explosives taken from the shell of the old nuc. Not good to let such a thing sit around for 30 years deteriorating.

      • “Just retire the Missilier badge created by my father at LeMay’s behest. Dad pinned the first on LeMay. LeMay pinned the second on Dad. Lies now at Arlington, buried with full honors and a 21 gun salute. I have the Missilier Badge plus his neck order (in the military, there are just two: wartime Medal of Honor, peacetime Legion of Merit) safe kept for future generations, with the explanations written into his eulogy and the written supplement passed out at his church funeral at which the Badge and Neck Order were displayed.”

        Thanks for sharing that, Rud. Walking with the military heavyweights.

      • @ristvan – I haven’t kept up with this as much as I used to. But do SLBMs have a sufficiently small CEP, or do the warheads on Tomahawks have sufficient tonnage, to take out a hardened target?

        I don’t ask in terms of deterrence of the two other hostile powers with intercontinental capability – yes, MAD works against rational opponents. I’m thinking more of credibly threatening hardened facilities of, say, certain Middle East nations, where the leadership is quite willing to sacrifice jihadis, or even a majority of their population – but seems rather less willing to die a martyr’s death all by themselves.

        Just thinking. Of course that would not require such a large land force, and it wouldn’t be part of a Triad then.

      • “I have the Missilier Badge plus his neck order (in the military, there are just two: wartime Medal of Honor, peacetime Legion of Merit) safe kept for future generations”

        Impressive !
        Rud, thank you. This and the similar accounts need to be told more often, particularly to the younger generations. It is sad that here in Europe, continent devastated by the ravages of the last war, sacrifice and heroism of many individuals are so readily forgotten.

  6. Ok. The ecology will alter in a warming and cooling world. You could have sent your hypothesis to me and I would have mailed back that general answer. The money line as usual is “if warming isn’t stopped” Since you are at NCAR let me suggest that you spend some time in the library learning about vast climate changes of the past and their effect on geology and hydrology. You will be amazed at what we already know.

  7. Once they determined that the output from WRF tracked with the observations, they used simulations from the model to investigate how snowmelt rates might change in North America around the end of the century if climate change continues unabated.

    “We hope this study motivates scientists from many other disciplines to dig into our research so we can better understand the vast implications of this projected shift in hydrologic patterns,” Musselman said.
    __________________________________________

    Around the end of the century scientists from many other disciplines will tackle with other facts then the CGM forecasts of Musselman.

      • Here is a fine comment (edited by me for the WUWT anthology) in this issue by our MIA rgbatduke (on the Christopher Essex WUWT thread about his lecture, “Believing in 6 Impossible Things Before Breakfast and Climate Models”) —

        rgbatduke: “I watched a variation of this talk several years ago, and it was brilliant and, AFAICT (and I can tell a lot!) utterly correct and fair. A Kolmogorov scale cell for atmospheric air is order of cubic meters (one cubic millimeter). The scale of cells used in climate models is around cubic meters (100x100x1 kilometers). There are 24 orders of magnitude difference. The timescale used in the climate models is determined by the size of the cells, cheating. seconds (five minutes) is the time required for sound to cross a cell, …[Thus,] climate models use stepsizes of roughly 5 minutes, the time needed for pressure variations to propagate across a cell so that they can pretend that a cell has a homogeneous pressure and temperature.

        The timescale required for a Kolmogorov scale cell is microseconds. The ratio between them is another factor of , making climate models a stunning 32 orders of magnitude short of where they would need to be in order to reliably integrate the spatiotemporal dynamics; and even if we could integrate at this granularity the solution would still be chaotic and, thus, infinitely sensitive to initial conditions.

        As it is, the assumptions built into the cell dynamics are merely absurd — cells are much larger than well-known energy dissipating structures such as thunderstorms and, thus, are essentially ‘blind’ to thunderstorm dynamics, cloud dynamics, nucleation, and growth of the defects that eventually become large scale weather patterns, and more.

        Then, there is the second coupled Navier-Stokes system — the ocean — with its enormously complicated dynamics, chemistry, and boundary. And I — or he — could go on.

        To attempt to solve the unsolvable, climate modellers have to replace all of this dynamics at less than their cell scale with smoothed approximations. Thunderstorms are always 1 cell in size (they cannot be any smaller) so that where a real weather pattern might have a front with scattered thunderstorms along a 300 x 100 kilometer band, the best a climate model could do would be to have thunderstorms in 1 out of three cells or some intermediate ‘rainy’ state assigned to the cells that is supposed to correspond to the average ‘thunderstorminess’ and correctly add up to the right vertical heat and moisture transfer and so on.

        Similarly scattered clouds on a scale from meters to kilometers become some sort of crude average modulation of cell albedo and radiative transfer. This is further modulated with ad hoc corrections for GHGs, aerosols, soot, and so on, all on a granularity of 100 km square patches where a single property has to be assigned to the entire cell and then dynamically varied, timestep to timestep, for the entire cell.

        All of this is perfectly obvious when one compares the actual climate trajectories produced by climate models. From tiny perturbations of initial conditions, they generate whole families of future climates, some warming, some actually cooling. The variance is enormous, and utterly non-physical. The autocorrelation times within the models themselves aren’t close to the actual autocorrelation times of the climate (how could they be? They have the wrong relaxation dynamics on nearly all time and length scales!) The fluctuations in the [simulated] climate are several times larger than the actual fluctuations in the real climate. They get the temperature of the troposphere egregiously wrong. They fail to predict floods or droughts anywhere near accurately. They cannot predict large-scale, self-organized, phenomena like ENSO that dominate discrete Hurst-Kolmogorov steps in the actual climate state and, thus, are just plain wrong almost everywhere, almost all of the time, …

        Two different climate models produce completely different results even if run from the same initial state. Our knowledge of initial state is nonexistent (because the real climate is highly non-Markovian, especially when coarse-grained). They cannot even pretend to capture the actual climate state over the decades to centuries needed to properly initialize the model, where heat swallowed by the ocean a century ago surfaces in the thermohaline circulation to affect climate in significant ways today.

        …”

        (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/02/20/believing-in-six-impossible-things-before-breakfast-and-climate-models/#comment-1864261 )

      • Janice Moore: Thank you for your work on the WUWT anothology. I miss rgbatduke; anybody know what he’s up to these days?

      • Hi, Alan,

        Thank you for saying so (so nice to hear that ANY one found that anthology helpful!). It was truly my pleasure.

        Someone (I think it was Mike (not a) Morlock) mentioned a few months ago that he looked him up and he has a Facebook page that was up to date. I think his full name is Robert G. Brown (of Duke University). I am not doing FB, so, I can’t help you out, there.

        With gratitude to you, such a faithful WUWTer with many insightful/informative comments (without all you “old timers,” this site would not be around today!),

        Janice

    • Curious George: They use a special technique called parameterization. It’s a big word meaning to force a model to line up with actual data so that the model can then predict future climate scenarios. Works like a charm I’m told.

  8. First they tell us global warming is bad because it will cause more flooding. Now it’s bad because the early melt will result in less flooding with less water making it downstream. In my world, a “settled science” does not produce so many 180 degree twists and turns. But I live in Realville, not in the imaginary world of catastrophic climate change.

  9. This one is just too stupid, but let’s try to understand just what they are trying to say.

    When snowpack melts more slowly, the resulting water lingers in the soil, giving plants more opportunity to take up the moisture. Water absorbed by plants is water that doesn’t make it into the stream, potentially reducing flows.

    OK, when the melt is slower, you get less total flow.

    But even with this decrease, we found an increase in the amount of water produced at low melt rates

    OK, when the melt is slower, you get more total flow.

    Looks like they have all the bases covered.
    Global Warming causes more and less stream flow at the same time.

  10. You mean slowing down the melt will benefit plants living on the mountains? Oh the horror!!

    So we get increased vegetation, which leads to more combustable material, which leads to hotter and more expansive fires in the summer, which leads to more acres (hectares, square miles, etc etc) being burned than ever before. And with reduced steam flow, less water to fight the fires.

    We are in a heap ‘a trouble.. or should I say California is in a heap ‘a trouble.. mostly.

  11. until it reaches the normal melt timeframe (when sun angles at the “normal” angle) then is either normal speed or often slightly faster.

      • But if there is less snow then trees would not get water . They’d die in the heat of the summer, dry up and causing more fires leaving bare slopes that would slip and slide leaving no dirt for the next trees and voila you’d have those bare “Rocky Mountains” that people love so much they’d leave garbage all over the place which would compost and form the next layer of dirt that then would grow a few weeds and the brush and then trees and there you would have 5000 years from now a “scientist” come around and have a model that says : “Seeing that there is more snow being held in the shade of the trees it will melt slower in the spring and therefore send me some more Bitcoin so I can go to Mars to present it at the fourth annual conference on the Planetary Solar System moon beam effect on snow levels in California ( or at least the part that is now left after the Big One 1233 years ago”
        That’s my model! ( bill is in the mail)..

  12. this is neither counter intuitive nor new. its been known for years. low snowpacks melt earlier in the season, its an issue of mass, less to melt, longer duration for melt, less per day, early season with less total energy available. the real consequence of this is that you incur greater losses to evapotranspiration and have lower runoff efficiencies. how this got published as new and fascinating is hard to conceive. you get less total flow from lower, slower snowmelt. fact. higher losses. the faster the melt rate, the higher the runoff efficiency, more flow.

  13. by the way, the most important factors in snowmelt are: 1) shortwave solar, 2) longwave solar – these on an annual basis constitute about 75 to 80% of total energy for melt. thermal and conductive and mass wasting, soil comprise the remainder. rain fall is very ineffective at melting snow as it takes 80 inches of rain at 1 degree c to melt just 1 inch of snow water equivalent. at 10 degrees C it still takes 8 inches of rain to melt 1 inch of swe… so if it rains 8 inches and melts 1 inch for a total of 9 inches… did the flood come from rain or snow? duh!

  14. bottom line is that most people think that temperature melts snow. wrong. snow is mostly trapped air which by another name is insulation. you cant pound temperature into a snowpack. temperature works only on the very thin surface of the pack. short wave solar penetrates several feet into the pack warming it from within as well as the surface. the only way temperature has a huge impact is when it is combined with steady wind scrubbing the surface. as far as i know, global warming isnt going to change the length of daylight at any particular time of season (tho i am sure there is a study in the works that will contradict that) so the vast majority of snowmelt energy will not change. the 10 to 15% that is contributed by temperature will increase somewhat… so now we have hypothetically 105% of what we used to.

  15. So more snow, less winter. Unless it’s colder. Or less snowier. Or warmer and wetter. Or drier. And cooler. Or endless drought. Until it floods. And a new record. Except for the last record. Once again the climate social mania renders yet another academic work gobble-dee-gook.

    • Hey, whatever floats their boat …er… gets it stuck in the ice …er… has the hottest engine cooling intake temperature …er…uh…. whatever sounds like what we want people to hear!

  16. Slower snowmelt (if true) would mean less flooding and more of the snow melt would soak into local aquifers. All in all, a good thing.

  17. Keith Musselman MO (Master of the Obvious)

    Keith Here’s another “counter intuitive” navel gazing thought for you:
    High arctic sea ice summer melts, are always followed by very high refreeze rates.

    Negative feedbacks are the norm, not the exception, on Earth. Otherwise there would be no one here to be gazing at navels.

  18. Let’s have a show of hands for those who didn’t know that lower sun angle means slower snow melt, except when it is adjacent to an NOAA thermometer with the usual air conditioner or jet engine exhaust. Yeah, well at least that hasn’t been published before (although it may have been suggested somewhere when, according to 97% Cook, there are 100,000 clisci papers published per decade ), that goes for novelty in climate science..

  19. It is and interesting finding. I see this too at my home at 1000m elevation and 52°N. In January and early February, even at +3°C, snow doesn’t seem to melt. Only the very top layer gets soft. Whereas, now (late February, early March, even at below 0°C, snow will start to melt (on a clear day, when the sun is high).

    • Agreed Jeff in Cowtown, we got to a high of -7 C today and with the sun higher in the sky, it warms the asphalt and there is actually significant melting at that low a temperature.

      That “climate” thingy is a nasty beast to manage!

  20. From the article: “We hope this study motivates scientists from many other disciplines to dig into our research so we can better understand the vast implications of this projected shift in hydrologic patterns,” Musselman said.”

    What did the “hydrologic patterns” look like in the extremely hot decade of the 1930’s?

    After all, the 1930’s is what you are talking about when you talk about CAGW. Hot, extreme weather. It doesn’t get any hotter or more extreme than in the 1930’s. It’s certainly nothing like the 1930’s today.

    I think if they want answers, they should study history. If they fear hot, extreme weather, then they should study the hot, extreme weather that has already happened. That’s better than computer models.

    • The Klimatariat don’t dwell in the past, its all about the future under AGW.

      If they used their super computers to absorb paleo history the future would have become abundantly clear.

      • The old joke about the Soviet Union was that only the future was certain, but the past was always changing.

      • Besides it’s much much cooler in the ’30s now than it was ten years ago thanks to the correction of the temp record, so it’s actually worse than we thought.

  21. What I get out of this is that the former prediction that warming would reduce rainfall and create drought, is now recognized as a flop. So the workaround is that the rainfall is still unchanged, but you will get less runoff because of (blah, blah), so still get drought from a social standpoint (water availability). “even if the total amount of precipitation in the watershed remains unchanged” means, so sorry, the earlier prediction is a flop, and the rainfall amount with warming is unchanged, but just you wait (alarming forecast inserted here).

  22. Look at the temperature plot above 80 N, it seems as though the ice melting is primarily caused by the sun and not the air temperature. Note there are about 100 more days with the mean temperature below freezing before the mean temperature reaches melting yet a lot of melting will occur beforehand. What am I missing.
    May need to click on to update

    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

    • That’s easy enough to see. The snow along the fence line that is shielded from the sun melts very, very slowly even though it is 60 F. So slowly that it lasts until the next cold wave that dumps more snow ( which I need to see a doctor about since we all know that it never snows anymore) .

  23. The results are totally invalidated by their general nature. South facing slopes get more sun exposure than north facing slopes, so it is the net amount of south facing slopes in a watershed that determines runoff rate. Also, steep slopes with rocks have higher runoff rates than lower angle and vegetated slopes, and slopes in arid climates have more runoff than those at high latitudes and high altitudes. Vegetation type also matters. So their net effect of their proposed phenomena most likely cannot be measured. It is not whether their phenomena exists, it is whether it is relevant in a basket of all the other effects going on. That is the first test of model viability, and it is unlikely to pass that test.

    • Worst sunburn I ever got (this coming from a formerly competitive sailor) was late spring skiing in the Alps (April, over Easter, when we lived in Munich). We did the entire Lech- Zurs circuit in a day. Spf 30, no less. No match for the sun/snow combination. So decided to ski only Dec- March. There are reasons sports are seasonal. Pick the right four, and anyone is good to go. Mine are skiing/snowmobiling (winter), fly fishing (spring/early summer), sailing/windsurfing (summer), and hunting (fall/early winter). The only remaining problem was finding enough time off… Some problems are not solvable until the solution no longer matters…

  24. To beutify this discussion ‘Inuit’ words for snow from Phil James,

    tla tlapa tlacringit kayi tlapat klin naklin tlamo tlatim tlaslo tlapinti kripya tliyel tliyelin blotla pactla hiryla wa-ter tlayinq quinaya quinyaya slimtla kriplyana puntla allatla fritla gristla MacTla jatla dinliltla sulitlana mentlana tidtla ertla kriyantli hahatla semtla ontla intla shlim warintla mextla penstla mortla ylaipi nylaipin pritla nootlin rotlana skriniya bluwid tlanid ever-tla talini priyakli chiup blontla tlalman tlalam tlanip protla attla in sotla tlun astrila clim tlapi krikaya ashtla huantla by tla-na-na depptla by trinkyi tronkyin shiya katiyana tlinro nyik ragnitla akitla privtla chahatlin hootlin geltla briktla striktla erolinyat chachat krotla tlarin motla sotla maxtla tlayopi truyi tlapripta carpitla

    eg., tla-na-na: snow mixed with the sound of old rock and roll from a portable radio

  25. How does ice melt in sub-zero temperatures? That is the question everyone needs to ask. The melting ice is melting due to warm water, not air, and not CO2. CO2 doesn’t warm water.

  26. Let me get this right. They looked at one decade of data and assume that is useful for predicting the future??????? Face-palm.

    • The old out of range trick. In The Arts of Truth, I used a ‘famous’ AMA journal article that plotted the BMI (Body Mass Index) of Miss America pageant winners. The data confidently predicted that Miss America winners would be dead of starvation by 2020 and the pageant would stop. Absurd. Which was the point of that statistics chapter example.

  27. “When snowpack melts earlier, it also melts more slowly, new study finds…”
    “Water absorbed by plants is water that doesn’t make it into the stream, potentially reducing flows.”
    And I say to that – so

    • Slow melting snow upsets environmentalists — for no good reason.
      Water not making it into the stream upsets environmentalists — for no good reason.
      Okay, we’re upset now. Find a reason and win a free toaster!

  28. CBC was on a “Global Weirding” track again today saying that the 2016/2017 extreme winter with big snowfalls on both coasts along with low temperatures and warmer less snowy prairies is due to “Global Warming/Climate Change”.

    Now where have I heard this before?

    Oh, yeah, in a story from them a couple of years ago quoting some studies from NOAA and quoting guess who/ (Tom Karl). Why am I not surprised?

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/global-warming-linked-to-several-extreme-weather-events-1.2781420

    Guess you can find an “ex spurt” to give you whatever “facts” you want.

  29. “As the world warms, mountain snowpack will not only melt earlier, it will also melt more slowly, according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).”

    The most useful aspect of this revelation is that it is and will be impossible to measure with any kind of confidence or reliability at all.
    It’s the perfect new science scenario to provide endless opportunities for speculation, pontificating, presumptions and refinement about something which can never be measured therefore never fully refuted either.
    I follow many arenas. It’s the same with every topic and issue.
    Let’s face it.
    The modern world has produced so many jackasses that they have infected everything with endless BS.

    Ever see the movie limitless? It’s like we have real world people taking pills that expand the capacity to dream up crap. They’re 50 steps ahead of any effort to correct or stop them.

  30. The summary of readers here appears to be

    A) This is obviously true and engineers have known this.
    B) This cant be true because a model was involved.
    C) This is neither true nor false, it just means AGW predicts everything.

  31. It may surprise the authors of this piece of drivel to know that, by simple observation during the many seasons I was on ski patrol it was obvious that direct energy from the sun was/is NOT the primary driving force of snow melt – fast or slow. Wind IS! considering the very high energy reflecting ability of snow cover there should be no surprise that energy transfer from warm wind to cold snow is far greater in magnitude. Add a nice warm rain and melt rates go WAY up. It takes a LOT of energy to melt snow and direct photons from the sun cannot provide enough. Therefore, trying to correlate sunshine with melt rate is futile (like the Borg say – “Resistance is Futile”.

  32. If it melts slowly the ground water builds up, the stream level goes down. The world temperature lessens microscopically because of reflection. Tree growth becomes strong and healthy.

    • And Nye shucked and jived.. Would not answer basic easy questions. When pressed on his rant to have skeptics jailed you could see dismay in his face. He went around the bend when tucker stated that he believed the climate changes but mans influence is very questionable and unsettled.

      I thought Nye was going to explode… Priceless…

  33. I’m watching Bill Nye the Science Guy being interviewed on TV and what a charlatan! How can anyone place faith in an obvious con man – he and all the others pushing the climate scam are doing great harm to science. He just claimed if it weren’t for Man’s activity the world’s climate now would be just like it was in 1750. And he claims the science is settled.

    At least these scammers have made me skeptical of everything, which is a good thing – if they can’t prove it, they can shove it. What with politicians, celebrities, and other assorted losers looking for their 15 minutes, I’m not buying crazy, we’re all full up.

  34. “The Sun just isn’t providing enough energy at that time of year to drive high snowmelt rates.”

    A possible presumption here is that radiation from CO2 is now melting the snow. Another is that warmer CO2 laden air, having absorbed terrestrial radiation from the (snow?), is now preventing the snow from radiating to space at its former capacity. Yet another possible presumption is that CO2 laden air, having absorbed terrestrial radiation somewhere warmer, moves in and melts the snow by conduction like a hot iron.

    All of these possibilities are conceivable. The first is the weakest in the traditional sense because the absorption spectra of ice and water are nearly identical. Snow, like any water surface, consumes 15 micron radiation in far less thickness than a human hair. So far so good, but as usual for us dumbass naked apes, there is a caveat. Gravity enters the picture and the melted dozen or so microns percolate down just as if it were rain.

    Just admit it. We don’t know what is going on. There is little danger in what we know so far. The danger is what we don’t know.

    Let’s quit advocating and get to work.

  35. Reminds me of “African Genesis” by Robert Ardrey. He mentioned several speculations on the causes of the ice ages. One, proposed by a meteorologist, was that the sun warmed up, causing more rain in summer and more snow in winter. The snow gradually built up into glaciers because summer melt couldn’t keep up with additional winter snow.

  36. Why would snow melt more slowly simply because it started melting earlier? It wouldn’t, it would simply melt slower a lower areas projected from direct sunlight, than in higher unprotected areas, once the sun was able to hit the snow directly . If early melting snow truly melted slower in warmer temperatures, then snow shouldn’t melt at all once the temperature got to a hot enough point.

  37. When I hear something so counter intuitive I think massive lie. Of course the next thing I want to see is the grant that paid for the study and who granted the taxpayer money.

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