Sad, @wapo Does Anything for a Headline – ‘Climate change is altering the smell of snow’

We’ve seen all sorts of media claims about climate change. Some are doomsday scenarios, others claim your favorite holiday food will be threatened, while others try to link nearly every weather event to their view of “climate change.” Some, like the one in a recent story in The Washington Post, are just outlandish claims with no basis in measurable reality that can be proved or disproved with a modicum of factual research.

A recent story The Washington Post story, titled, “Climate change is altering the smell of snow,” claims  snow now smells bad due to climate change.

Yes, you read that right.

The article makes some claims that could easily be described as silly. For example:

Climate change is affecting the way snow smells, said Parisa A. Ariya, a chemist and chair of the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department at McGill University. As the ground and air get warmer, that encourages the circulation — and intensity — of the odor molecules.

When snow falls, Ariya said, it’s “a snapshot of the atmospheric process.” In 2017, she helped conduct a study looking at how snow absorbs the pollution from gasoline engine exhaust, which could then contaminate the water and soil on the ground as it melts.

Note the phrase, it’s “a snapshot of the atmospheric process.”

The key word here is “snapshot.” Atmospheric processes that occur on a timescale of a winter storm event (hours) are weather events, whereas for anything in the atmosphere to have a climate component to it, it has to be a long-term change. Climate change is generally accepted to be something that is measured over a 30-year period. The National Atmospheric and Atmospheric Administration defines it as:

More formally, climate is the long-term average of temperature, precipitation, and other weather variables at a given location. Every 30 years, climate scientists calculate new averages. The normal high and low temperatures reported on your local weather forecast come from these 30-year averages.

For the claim that snow has changed its smell due to climate change to be true, it would require that a 30-year database of smell measurements to exist, so that a long-term change could be measured.

The bottom line – no such database of snow smells exists, meaning the claim about the odor of snow changing for the worse as a result of climate change is nothing more than speculation.

Both The Washington Post and the researchers listed in the article fail to provide any evidence whatsoever that snow smells different than it did 30 years ago. They can’t, because no such data exists from 30 years ago.

Further, smell is not a standardized thing that can be reliably measured. A 2013 study Variability in olfactory receptors affects human odor perception published in Science Daily says this:

Researchers have found that as much as 30 percent of the large array of human olfactory receptor differs between any two individuals. This substantial variation is in turn reflected by variability in how each person perceives odors.

In other words, significant biological differences between individuals means no two people perceive a smell as the same. Therefore, it is ludicrous to suggest that the claimed climate change affected snow over a long-term, or even short-term period can be reliably gauged by human olfactory response.

The story appears to be little more than a headline grabbing opinion piece designed to make you think that climate change affects nearly everything, but there’s absolutely no basis in fact for the claim.

Sadly, this is the state of science and journalism today, where facts are lacking, and virtually anything goes when it includes climate change as a factor. The result? A snowjob on the readers. The stupid, it burns!

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February 9, 2022 8:24 am

Don’t sniff the snow where it is yellow.

Reply to  Bozo
February 9, 2022 8:51 am

and certainly don’t eat it…

Max P
Reply to  Fraizer
February 9, 2022 10:17 am

If you’re a ‘Yooper’ you might drink Yellow Snow, from time to time.

Reply to  Fraizer
February 9, 2022 11:53 am

Especially on Billy The Mountain.

Reply to  Bozo
February 9, 2022 5:24 pm

Don’t bend down to sniff the snow; it takes your nose too close to your nether regions.

Tom Halla
February 9, 2022 8:25 am

Well, Greta can see CO2, so why can’t she smell climate change?

February 9, 2022 8:30 am

Climate oligarchs run the media these days.

Bill Powers
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 9, 2022 10:04 am

Let me correct that for you ResourceGuy.
Climate oligarchs carryout the bidding of The Faceless Cultural Elite (FCE). The FCE, who own the media, purchase the puppet politicians, then instruct their ventriloquist dummies (said paid politicians) as to who to appoint to the Bureaucratic institutions (The Deep State which actually runs the country for the FCE) in order to advance the narrative that the FCE wish us to believe in and follow.
Man Made Climate Change is simply a tenet of the FCE secular religion, advanced as a control mechanism to manipulate the masses. Just as another more recent tenet, Pandemic hysteria, was created in a laboratory with taxpayer funds and introduced into the population
for the express purpose of reducing healthcare costs of the extremely costly elderly population. As an ancillary benefit they discovered it was extremely affective at manipulating the masses with mask and vax mandates. It is all about the elite controlling the great unwashed. “Do as I say, not as I do. Fossil fuel and mask mandates for thee but not for me.”
The very same deep state has been hard at work “dumbing down” our children for decades now; all the while brainwashing them into the FCE narrative. These unthinking public school graduates are triggered into a frenzy by language, reject objective truth, and vote against candidates who do not sing from the secular hymnal. Read: adhere to the indoctrination narrative.
We now know from the test results of the past 2 generations that the average Public School graduate can’t read beyond the 8th grade level, perform math beyond the 4th grade nor find
Mexico on a map. Yet they are absolutely certain that politicians are racists for wanting to control the flow of non-citizens north, across the U.S./Mexican border, where ever that is.

John Larson
Reply to  Bill Powers
February 9, 2022 5:46 pm

I too believe the “globalist elite” set out some decades ago to remedy the relatively new “Western” notion of ‘rule by consent of the governed’, and have been hiring the best strategists money can buy, to facilitate it’s ultimate demise ever since.

The goal is just good old “Elitism” (Rule by a few bosses at the top, which is to say gangsterism in terms of how it actually functions), I am quite sure, and hence the normalization of ‘Rules for thee but not for me’ is effectively a given. Those below the bosses in the gang’s hierarchies can violate the rules set for those below them, and must accept that those above them can do likewise.

It is unfortunate, it seems to me, that many otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people reflexively read various “ideologies” into what the strategists come up with to advance the goal, like Marxism most notably. I doubt any of those “elites” care in the slightest about such ideologies, and will have no hesitation at all to “violate” any supposed doctrines of them. once they achieve the goal.

But, it is quite useful to them to employ tactics and rhetoric at times which allow the “stringing along” of the now rather heavily indoctrinated “useful idiots” who ascribe to such ideologies. And hence, attempts to “fight Communism” actually help to keep those useful ones on-board and active in a cause they have no clue is really just exploiting their naivete about such ideologies being near and dear to the people at the top (or even in the middle ranks) of the gangsters.

(And I suggest such otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people dispense with use of language that plays into the hands of the indoctrinators, and just call these wanna-be unlimited rulers over us gangsters, or megalomaniacs, or tyrants in the making, or whatever suits the moment. Getting into the weeds, so to speak, about how poorly this or that ideology has worked in this or that place/circumstance merely “triggers” the bullshit the useful ones have been programmed to react with, it seems to me.)

Ed Zuiderwijk
February 9, 2022 8:37 am


Bryan A
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
February 9, 2022 9:59 am

Snow-Mann…now that stinks

February 9, 2022 8:43 am

Remember the rules? Don’t eat yellow snow nor face plant in brown snow. Just a piece of useful advice for the climate folk morons. Snow smells different? Yeah, okay, greta.

February 9, 2022 8:45 am

Since marijuana smoking was legalized in my town, ALL outdoor public spaces now constantly reek of this foul odor come rain, hail, snow or sun.


Reply to  Mr.
February 9, 2022 8:57 am

Not just outdoor (Cheech and Chong) . Soon in the EU near you…

February 9, 2022 8:47 am

 “Climate change is altering the smell of snow”

And the colours of the rainbow, no doubt.

Who sniffs snow? Someone who is vertically challenged like Michael Mann?

Reply to  fretslider
February 9, 2022 9:56 am

Only in the case you have the pitty to be victim of a snowslide

Bryan A
Reply to  fretslider
February 9, 2022 10:04 am

Mary had a little lamb
it’s stash the whitest snow
And everywhere that Mary went
they both enjoyed the blow
(George Carlin)

Reply to  fretslider
February 9, 2022 11:58 am

altitudinally challenged”

Reply to  Mr.
February 9, 2022 2:55 pm

A member of the suborder Natantia.

February 9, 2022 8:53 am

It is a ridiculous article and paper.

Of topic, but it occurred to me the other day that El Niños are actually global cooling events. Heat that had been stored in the pacific warm pool gets released to the atmosphere, thus causing warming of the atmosphere, but that heat quickly radiates to space, and the global ocean/atmosphere system is cooler than it was before.

2016 was the hottest year ever because the plant was getting cooler.

Last edited 1 year ago by Thomas
Reply to  Thomas
February 9, 2022 11:52 am

There seems to be a step change to higher temperatures from most El Ninos. The El Nino high is fallen from fairly quickly but longer term it is often warmer than it was before. this is evident in at least some of the temperature reporting, such as UAH

February 9, 2022 9:00 am

Meanwhile the worlds absolute experts on snow, the Eskimo’s, have unbounded words for snow :
but no smelly ones.

I’m afraid the article is discriminatory, and should be reported!

Jack Clancy
February 9, 2022 9:20 am

That is a jump the shark headline, even for WaPo. That should signal the end is nigh. Fonzie was gone a year later.

Robert B
Reply to  Jack Clancy
February 9, 2022 1:08 pm

A myth. The show was number 1 for another five years and finished 7 seasons later.

Grumpy Bill
February 9, 2022 9:41 am

When I was a kid back in the 50s, snow had a very distinctive smell – and taste and color – because every house in the neighborhood was heated with coal.

Reply to  Grumpy Bill
February 9, 2022 9:50 am

and, that’s why you are grumpy, Bill?

February 9, 2022 9:54 am

Didn’t we have that just yesterday ?

February 9, 2022 9:56 am

Woke up to 2 inches of snow the other morning–didn’t smell any different than the day before. However, growing up in Philly eons ago, I do remember the piles of plowed and shoveled snow that lined the streets and sidewalks (sometime remaining for months) turning black from whatever was in the urban air. Not my fondest memory by a long shot, one of my primary reasons for living here in the free state of Texas.

Reply to  John VC
February 9, 2022 11:54 am

Some of you must be missing a smell gene. there is a distinctive smell to snow and the general atmosphere when a snow storm is near.

John Larson
Reply to  AndyHce
February 9, 2022 1:34 pm

“…there is a distinctive smell to snow and the general atmosphere when a snow storm is near.”

Perhaps, but the claim in this case involves differences in the smell of snow based on the temperature of “the atmosphere and land”, which varies from place to place during any given snowstorm anyway . . The implication that there exists some sort of global aggregate snow smell “baseline” that could be meaningfully correlated with average global temperature changes is the absurdity in this case, it seems to me, regardless of whether or not humans can detect a distinct snow odor in general.

Reply to  John VC
February 9, 2022 12:00 pm

Woke up to 2 inches of snow the other morning–

didn’t smell any different than the day before.

There’s blues song beginning in this line, I’m sure.

Reply to  Mr.
February 9, 2022 2:58 pm

“…There’s a kind of slush all over the world tonight . . .”

Reply to  John VC
February 9, 2022 3:09 pm

We have that a lot here (dirty snow). However, it’s not always black. When snow is first blown off the road, it looks all white, and slowly turns black as the snow melts and the asphalt is left on top. On the tennis court, it starts white, but then turns green as the snow melts. When I shovel off our back deck, it starts white, but then turns red (engineered “wood”) as the snow melts.

I see a connection, but maybe I see patterns where they don’t exist.

Pat from Kerbob
February 9, 2022 10:07 am

Its safe to assume that everything is climate change.
My bread did not rise properly yesterday, i feel better knowing its not something i did, climate dunit

Gunga Din
Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
February 9, 2022 10:41 am

Well, obviously, the higher concentrations of Man’s CO2 in the atmosphere counteracted the Natural CO2 released by the yeast in your dough so it didn’t rise.
CliSciFi 101. “Man’s CO2 is the cause of everything bad and nothing that is good in the world.”

February 9, 2022 10:10 am

It could be the “researchers” had suffered from SARS COVID 2. Olfactory disturbances are documented as being one of the lingering side effects of infection.

Perhaps WaPo should have consulted with a professional sniffer, Joe Biden.

Reply to  Brad-DXT
February 9, 2022 2:59 pm

Or maybe the underlying problem was proctocraniosis.

February 9, 2022 10:25 am

Remember, Parisa A. Ariya displaced a perfectly good scientist to get that position. Probably dozens of sound applicants were rejected so she could be hired.

Reply to  DrTorch
February 9, 2022 12:03 pm

We’ll always have Parisa.

(h/t Bogey)

(especially if she keeps writing the crap that got her noticed so far . . . )

February 9, 2022 10:31 am

I have news for you: snow doesn’t smell at all until it contacts something else. Lived at 50 N latitude my entire life, snow frequently on the ground for upwards of 6 months each year (October through March). Some years lots, some years not so much. Only month that I’ve never seen a snowfall in is July. Doesn’t stick around much or at all if it’s June-August, but I’ve seen highway closures in May and September due to snowfall amounts.

Never have I gone outside and thought “gee, that’s odd, the snow smells sweeter today”. The predominant odor that you pick up in winter is exhaust fumes. Diesel in particular seems to hang about quite a bit more. But snow? No. Hard, full stop, no.

Peter W
February 9, 2022 10:33 am

I gave up on WAPO years ago. They had made it all too obvious where they were from!

Rud Istvan
February 9, 2022 10:39 am

Under Bezos, WaPo banner motto has become ‘Democracy dies in darkness.’
AND they are making it so, as here.

John Bell
February 9, 2022 10:41 am

What, 2 degrees in 200 years and that changes the smell of snow?! The claims are so grasping at straws, it is hilarious, and then they are offended when no one believes them. HA HA HA HA

Gunga Din
February 9, 2022 10:47 am

I like snow.
But I must admit when more than 3 or 4 or more inches fall on top of ice in the night and it’s still falling in the morning when I have to drive to work, it does stink!

Caligula Jones
February 9, 2022 10:49 am

Well, add it to the list then:

Not as good as “bee tongues are getting shorter”, but it will do…

February 9, 2022 10:59 am

Anthony, BS like that does not merit serious conversation, only ridicule.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Eyal
February 9, 2022 3:48 pm

True. But it was seriously presented in a MSM publication to those who their “sniff their snow”.

Uncle Mort
February 9, 2022 11:40 am

Surely it is the other way round. Snow keeps altering the smell of climate change – towards the aroma of rotting integrity.

Bruce Cobb
February 9, 2022 12:05 pm

Wait, I am sensing a big marketing opportunity here; “Eau de snow”. Shark Tank, here I come!
Comment brought to you by “Snark Tank”.
Snark Tank: “There’s a world of Stupid out there”.

February 9, 2022 12:35 pm

Like fish and snow after three days it starts to smell. We are living in the end times or one heck of a clown world reality. What these people do for money, grants is amazing

Robert B
February 9, 2022 12:58 pm

When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses.” Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart)

Just a cynical exercise to brainwash the kiddies. Teachers should be educating students to think scientifically but they well be wrote learning this crap instead.

Andy Pattullo
February 9, 2022 6:51 pm

The smell of snow remains pleasantly mild and refreshing. The smell of climate science resembles a long neglected litter box.

February 10, 2022 1:17 am

If we had any snow, I’d let you know if it smelt different…

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  griff
February 10, 2022 9:12 am

Haha. Hey, Griff made a joke. Maybe there’s hope for him yet.

February 10, 2022 8:29 am

There is hope: the twitter responses to this article are universally mocking.

Joao Martins
February 10, 2022 8:35 am

A climate chemist is the only animal able to distinguish between normal snow and climate changed snow.

(adapted from Leslie White 1949:
Man is the only animal able to distinguish between distilled water and holy water.)

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