Digital Diatribes

A presentation of data on climate and other stuff

Archive for the ‘Snow’ Category

Observations of a Skiing Actuary – Part 2

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on April 8, 2010

In the last post, Tony Crocker offered some insights into what he’s been seeing at a general level in his snow-tracking pursuits.   Here, I present some of the actual findings.

In e-mail correspondence, he clarified the calculations of the numbers and provided some additional thoughts.   While this isn’t a guest post, but a summary of our correspondence, all work is Tony’s and most of the pertinent observations come from him.

The Data

Tony has broken North America into 8 regions.   He used his own judgment in defining the regions, but in his words “My regional definitions are somewhat arbitrary (though most skiers would consider them reasonable), and the regions are big enough that within a region there can sometimes be some areas with good seasons and others with bad seasons in the same year.”  The regions are as follows:

1 – California

2 – Pacific Northwest

3 – Interior Canada

4 – U.S. Northern Rockies

5 – Utah

6 – Northern & Central Colorado

7 – Southern & Western Colorado

8 – Northeast

Within each of the regions, the data point is “Percentage of snowfall relative to normal.”  The final data point for the region is a straight average of all the observations in that region.   The Data is tracked as far back as 1970-71 season.   Some of the years 1970-75 had significant snowfall, but he excludes those years in some calculations.   The main reason for excluding the data is the low number of data points available.

Data Considerations:  (1) Spread of resorts within region could cause weighting issues which do not appear to have been considered; (2) number of resorts with good information can differ from year to year; (3) the expected snowfall will change from year to year as data is added, but Tony recalculates historical data to account for that.

Observations (1975-2009)

*Most variable region = California shows a standard deviation of 31%.   The most consistent, least variable, data is the Interior of Canada (15%).   Overall North America had a standard deviation of 13% over the time frame.

*The longest trend, including the less credible data of the early 1970s shows an overall trend from 1970 – 2009 of -2.9%.   However, Tony ran trends from 1972, 1975, 1982, 1987, and 1992 that were all positive.  The highest trend in overall North American snowfall, in fact, is since 1975, at +9.8%.

*Every single region has a positive trend since 1975.  Some regions show some negatives during the shorter trend time-frames.   The region with the largest trend is the Pacific Northwest, +21.1% since 1975.  But in a show of how volatile results can be, this same region actually has the largest negative trend back to 1970 because of high snowfall early in that decade.

*There is some significant correlation in snowfall between many regions, though not all.    It’s not necessarily surprising that the Utah and Colorado regions are very highly correllated.   Other areas of high correlation (over 50%)  are:  California/U.S. Northern Rockies; California/Utah; California/Southern & Western Colorado; Pacific Northwest/Interior Canada; Pacific Northwest/U.S. Northern Rockies; Northern Rockies/Utah; Northern Rockies/Both Colorado Regions.

*Negative correlation is indicated between: California/Canadian Rockies (most distinct negative correlation); Canadian Rockies/Utah; Canadian Rockies/South & West Colorado; California/Northeast.


I asked Tony, based on his experience and observation, what are his main conclusions.  The following is his response:

1 – No trend in snowfall over the past 35-40 years in North American ski areas despite rising temperatures during most of that period.

2 – Rising temps don’t necessarily affect precipitation, but do affect the rain/snow line.  This is not yet an issue at almost any ski area in North America (Whistler base and Snoqualmie might be exceptions) but there are other ski regions of the world (Australia comes to mind) where it might be more serious.

3 – data is very volatile and it’s dangerous to claim trends based upon typical measuring periods like 5 or 10 years. 


I’m providing three charts:  the overall North American chart, the California chart and the Pacific Northwest chart.   On the Pacific Northwest chart, keep in mind that from 1976 forward the trend is largely positive, but from 1971 forward it is negative.   California shows the volatility of the region, and the difficulty in being able to make grand assessments in the short term regarding snowfall and temperature.

North American Snowfall

North American Snowfall

California Snowfall

California Snowfall



Thanks for the information, Tony.


Posted in Data, Earth, Global Warming, Guest Posts, Snow | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

Perspectives and Observations From a Skiing Actuary

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on April 6, 2010

The following “guest post” is from Tony Crocker, an actuary and avid skier who has documented snowfall as a result of his hobby.   The post below is actually somewhat dated – he had sent it last October, so keep that in mind with regard to his references to sunspot activity.

I asked for his permission to pass on some of the results of his study as a guest post.  He granted it and then I subsequently dropped the ball on passing it along.   I am first sharing his initial e-mail to me as a guest post, as he has some general thoughts and ideas based on his observations, and his own study.   The post below is not to be taken as advocacy on my part with regard to the strategy on taxation of carbon versus payroll tax, but it’s another viewpoint in the debate.

Perspectives and Observations from a Skiing Actuary

Guest Post by Tony Crocker

We have a few things in common.  I’m an actuary in Los Angeles, only a BA in statistics, no formal training in climatology. But I’m also an addicted skier and began collecting snowfall data in 1991, going back as far as 1967 in a few cases.  This was published in Powder Magazine in 1995, and I’ve continued to collect and expand it, now covering 101 locations in North America, summarized on my website

Because of my collection of snow statistics I do get asked the global warming questions from time to time.  Putting cause and effect aside, there is little question that temperatures increased from ~1975-2000 or so.  My snow data covers that period, and there is no trend in snowfall.  The reason for this is that precipitation does not necessarily decrease with rising temps, and in some snowy locations you could make the argument that it might increase.  At any rate, from a skier’s perspective the danger is from a rise in the average rain/snow line.  Fortunately in western North America virtually all ski areas are well above the typical rain/snow line of even the past decade. There are other places in the world (Australia, small areas near the villages in the Alps) where a rising rain/snow line is becoming a problem. 

You might wonder about the Northeast, where altitudes are low and rain is the key issue in degrading snow conditions. The problem there is temperature volatility and varied sources of weather. If storms come from the Gulf of Mexico they will be rain, just as they were 30 years ago, and if from Canada or the Great Lakes it will be all snow.  Nor’easters (Atlantic-based storms) are more complex, depends on whether they run into a cold mass of air onshore.  Hurricane Wilma in late October 2005 ended up running into such an airmass and dumped 4 feet of snow in the NH and VT mountains.

As a statistician I am not impressed at all with the accuracy of IPCC models and suspect there is no more than a 20% chance that they are correct.  However, as an insurance actuary I would advocate precautions against low probability disaster scenarios. So I’m willing to tax carbon, providing the revenue is exactly offset by payroll and income tax cuts.  Some of the tax should be on OPEC oil imports, since downside of US dependence on OPEC is clear while the downside of too much CO2 might be a big problem but more likely is a less pressing issue.  I would take the position that even if taxing carbon is irrelevant environmentally it’s still better for the economy than the payroll/income taxes it would replace.

At any rate the flat temperatures of the past decade and possible decline over the last couple of years should be giving the IPCC etc. pause, and they should be trying to figure out what needs to be added to their climate models.  After all, CO2 output has been rising rapidly, and a decade ago they said temperatures would if anything increase faster than over the previous 25 years.

Presumably you’ve read the David Archibald paper predicting a replay of the early 19th century Dalton minimum and an ensuing sharp drop in temperatures. The key soft spot in these predictions is the feedback effect of water vapor from increased CO2.  The IPCC etc. says the water vapor feedback will at least triple the greenhouse effect of the CO2.  Archibald says the water vapor feedback is negative.  Neither of these assertions can be proven as far as I know. 

You say that significant temperature declines are likely if the next solar max is <100.  Archibald predicts it will be 40.  His climate assumptions are questionable, but he made the sunspot predictions nearly 2 years ago, estimating that the solar minimum might not occur until July 2009.  While August 2009 was the first spotless month in 95 years, the 2010 increase in sunspot activity confirms that the smoothed minimum between Cycles 23 and 24 bottomed in December 2008.

As a skier I will be pleased if temperatures continue to stay flat or decline over the next 20 years.

Posted in Global Warming, Guest Posts, Snow | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Another Cold Week on the Way…

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 10, 2009

From AccuWeather:

Coming this week...  Weather that sucks.

Coming this week... Weather that sucks.

This is about as bad as it gets folks. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it since 1994. Sure its been very cold at times over the past 14 years, but the total area impacted by this cold wave will be huge. By next Thursday and Friday, extremely cold air will chill the entire area from the Great Plains to the Eastern Seaboard, and the cold is also going to reach the Deep South. Only the far West will be unscathed.

From the central Plains to the Northeast temperatures are going below zero; there is no question about it. Meanwhile, the Upper Midwest and northern New England could experience readings lower than 30 below zero!

Emphasis mine. Yeah. Dandy. This is where I live.

Well, we’re not the only ones, if it makes you feel any better. Europe is cold this week, too. From this link, we read:

A rare, heavy snowfall in central Spain closed Madrid’s airport and paralysed city traffic while several rivers in Germany were frozen as much of Europe endured Siberian conditions Friday.
Russian gas cuts to several European countries this week have aggravated the the effects of the bitter cold which has embraced much of the continent since the end of December.

But not everyone was unhappy about the cold snap, with the Dutch taking the opportunity to rediscover the pleasures of skating along iced-over canals and lakes.

“What I love most is the crunching of the ice under the skates and the sensation of gliding,” said Marie-Therese Sluijters-Rompa, a 62-year-old retiree who came to the iced-over canals of the western Dutch village of Kinderdijk to skate with her husband.

“It is a little piece of heaven,” she added.

Oh, those whacky Dutch… It reminds me of watching “The Silver Skates” and seeing Hans Brinker and his group of friends sprint a marathon on skates, with everyone about three feet apart from each other at mile 13. Skating must get you in good shape.

For more on that whole Russian thing, see this article. That Putin guy doesn’t mess around.

In the “irony can be pretty ironic sometimes” department, comes this little tidbit, which many of you have probably seen: Dog Sled race canceled due to too much snow.

Too much fluffy snow that keeps drifting and therefore made it impossible to maintain a groomed trail.

That poses a safety risk to the dogs, supercharged canines whose mushers need a groomed trail to drop a hook to stop when necessary.

“We can’t pack it,” race organizer Eddy Streeper said Monday. “We just can’t get it packed. We had to speak up on behalf of the dogs.”

That’s because – as you may or may not know – dog’s can’t talk.

Just for fun, I thought I’d end the post with the current 7-day forecast here. That Thursday and Friday just looks like a real hoot, doesn’t it?

I thought I’d show the updated forecast. They have graciously not lowered the low temps, but I’m not liking the trend on the projected high temps…


Posted in Current Events, Earth, News, Severe Weather, Snow, Weather, Winter, Wisconsin | 5 Comments »

More Inconvenient News and Meteorologists

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on December 23, 2008


That white stuff is snow. Take a good look. We may never see it again because the poles are melting.

As Christmas approaches (Merry Christmas, by the way) I am unsure about whether I’ll have time for any updates, or even if I’ll want to. Family comes first. So, I thought I’d quickly address a number of items I have seen in the news over the last couple days. Make of it what you will.

Link: Inconvenient winter weather hampers holiday travel.

Several thousand travelers remained stranded Monday after a rare weekend snowstorm walloped Seattle.
“We haven’t seen accumulation like this in 12 years,” said Seattle-Tacoma International Airport spokesman Peter McGraw.

Elsewhere, residents and work crews dug out from what many called the worst snows in years.
The 14.5-inch snowfall Sunday in Portland, Maine, surpassed the old record for Dec. 21 of 12.4 inches, set in 1933, according to the National Weather Service.
Marion County, Ore., public works director Bill Worcester said this week’s conditions were the worst he’s seen in four years

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Canada, China, Climate Change, Current Events, Cycles, Earth, Global Warming, News, Severe Weather, Snow, Weather, Winter | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

It’s Snowing Again… in Vegas!

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on December 18, 2008

From this link:

A rare winter storm swept through Southern Nevada Wednesday, dumping the most snow on the valley in nearly three decades, grounding flights at the airport, forcing the closure of major highways and closing schools for today.

“This is the most snow we’ve had in Las Vegas in almost 30 years,” said Chris Stachelski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “It’s a significant historical event.”

The heaviest snowfall occurred in the southeast valley, where about 3 inches of snow had accumulated by 7:45 p.m., with unconfirmed reports of as much as 6 inches in Henderson, he said.

Between 6 to 10 inches could fall in that area by the time the storm tapers off Thursday morning, and the northern and western parts of the valley could receive up to 4 inches of snowfall, he said.

Yet another indicator of how serious global warming has become.

Posted in Las Vegas, Severe Weather, Snow, Weather, Winter | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Blogging Against the Grain, and My Most Recent Diatribe About Global Warming

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on February 12, 2008

I’m told that, in order to have a successful blog (i.e. one that more than three random people read, and only because they clicked the wrong link after a Google search) you must have a primary focus.  Alas, it looks like I will never have a successful blog.  I can’t help myself.  I have too many random interests.   I enjoy writing, and sometimes I’m trying to use my “entertainer” gene and not trying to make any broader point.   I also love current events:  news, politics, issues of the day…  Thus, my “news of the day” posts.   I love music.   Not just listening to it, but – as any visitors to the blog will know – I have a CD to promote, and the business side of me says that it would just be better to focus on blogging in order to draw attention to that.  (“That” meaning Avant-God, a Catholic/Christian Rock project that you will be sure to want to check out on CD Baby, artist Joe Tritz…  um, sorry about that shameless promotion…)   Then there’s the religious stuff.   I could just have a blog on Catholicism and/or religion in general.    Then there’s the personal stuff…  family, kids, stupid things I do… those kinds of things. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Antarctica, Arctic, Blogging, Climate Change, Current Events, Cycles, Earth, Global Warming, News, Opinion, Science, Snow, Sun, Weather, Winter, Wisconsin | 1 Comment »

News: 02-01-2008 – Search and Monopolize, China winter Syndrome, Antarctic Ice, Noah’s Ark of Seeds

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on February 1, 2008

I Guess We Have Time for a Quick Merge…

This was the big news of the day in the business world. Two giants in the tech industry talking about getting together and taking down Google. I post it here because my radio and TV and Internet told me that this was a big deal.

Here’s the thing I don’t really understand. Taken from the point of view of a random consumer, why do I care? I have my Yahoo! Mailbox and I search with Google. By now, it’s habit. I am trying to imagine a scenario where that habit is broken. I’m sure some will check it all out, but I’m too lazy. Seems like a lot of money, especially when you see the actual Yahoo! Market share. Combine the two entities and it still doesn’t touch Google.

This is becoming a humanitarian crisis

I alluded to the winter weather in China, but things just get worse. It looks like there are more storms on the way, too. I’ve seen a picture from China where the Palm Trees are covered in snow. Amazing stuff. Thankfully, I saw a news report today that said some trains started running. I can’t imagine how long it will take to get this situation handled, but at least there’s some hope. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Antarctica, Business, China, Climate Change, Crops, Current Events, Earth, Food, Global Warming, Ice Age, Military, News, Opinion, Political Correctness, Politics, Seeds, Snow, Weather, Winter | Leave a Comment »

News: 01-30-2008 – Edwards NO kingmaker, Vermont traitors, and Middle East and Chinese snow

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 30, 2008

Well, so much for the brokered convention idea…

So two days after the whole idea that Edwards is eyeing a brokered convention in order to become Kingmaker and wield some power, the anticipation balloon has popped. I must admit to being a bit disappointed. You see, a month ago this was shaping up to be a dandy and potentially historical year. There seemed to be a real possibility of at least one, if not two, brokered conventions.

Imagine the excitement surrounding a convention where the delegates are voting, without knowing in advance who the nominee is! On the Republican side, we had Huckabee winning Iowa, McCain winning New Hampshire, and Romney taking care of business in Michigan, Wyoming, and Nevada. There was the prospect of a Giuliani win in Florida, and possibly even a Thompson win in South Carolina. But now McCain has won two states in a row, leading to a Super Tuesday that appears to have two viable candidates: McCain and Romney. The only possibility of a brokered convention is if Huckabee captures a few states next Tuesday. There are a couple states where this seems to be a distinct possibility, but even that may not be enough to cause the turmoil that was eagerly anticipated. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Climate Change, Conventions, Current Events, Cycles, Earth, Edwards, Elections, Global Warming, News, Politics, Snow, Weather, Winter | 3 Comments »

In Like A Lion…

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on February 28, 2007

I can only hope the old adage that March entering like a Lion means it will end like a Lamb holds this year.  As I type this, the advent of another winter storm is upon us.  This last weekend we received well over a foot of snow with drifting.  Someone told me we received 21 inches.  I have my doubts about that number, but I’ll buy 14-16 inches.  And now, we are told, the next 2-3 days could bring us at least as much if we get the fluffy stuff, or “only” 6-10 inches if we get the heavier version.

It is winter in Wisconsin, my friends.  This precipitation is on the heels of 2-3 weeks of sub-zero weather.  And each year, I ask myself why I’m here.  I know the answer, of course.  It’s family ties, work, friends, and the beautiful summers.   Yet, I go through the mental questionnaire each year in order to convince myself that these things are worth it.

This is reminding me of the old days.  When I was in my youth, we had many winters I can remember where we had mucho snowfall and frigid temperatures.  As the years have gone by, we still get them, but it doesn’t seem like we get them as often as we did back then.  What I find amusing now, though, is that winter weather is such a huge story. 

I know, I know.  The earth is warming and we’re all doomed.  I’ve noted my skepticism on this point before, and I’m still debating whether or not I want to start turning this into a science blog.  I’ve contemplated the arguments in favor of and against the hypothesis of global warming, along with the critical question of humanity’s influence on it.  In order to present a cogent argument on the topic, I would need to dedicate numerous posts and myriad hours to it.  Since I’m a lazy oof who is more interested in posting an opinion with minimal work, that is not in the immediate plan.  I’ll let you know when I decide to start my thesis.

But nonetheless, I have some general observations.  You see, over the last couple decades I hear that global warming has provided us with milder winters.  That may even be true, for all I know.  I do seem to remember more snow and blizzards when I was a kid.  On the other hand, I was a lot shorter then, and 6 inches of snow probably seemed a whole lot more impressive than it does now.

The other thing is, I can’t recall a single winter that hasn’t had freezing temperatures in at least one significant stretch.  Since I haven’t kept a record of it myself, it’s entirely possible that this has happened, but I can’t recall it being the case.  And I’m just not sure if cold weather without snow instead of cold weather with snow means anything other than it snows in some years more than in other years. 

But now, we have a storm.  And now we need to figure out how in the world it could be snowing in Wisconsin at this time of the year.  I’m serious about this.  I’ve now been told that, for some reason, this is considered something that’s newsworthy.  And I think I have it all figured out.  See if you can follow this:  Thirty years ago we were headed for an ice age.  The earth ignored the industrial age and decided to cool off anyway.  In 1974, Time Magazine laid out the convincing evidence and the scientific consensus that certain places in the world were covered with ice.  In those days, it snowed a lot, and it was cold.  This all makes perfect sense, because that’s what you would expect in an ice age.

Somewhere between 1979 (when Newsweek was still promoting the theory of an ice age) and 1989, we learned that this cooling reversed.  Hooray!   We were not going to be plummeted into an ice age after all, and we’d all be saved.  Except that this meant that temperatures were now increasing.   Not that I’m suggesting mankind to be innately pessimistic, it seems that we all decided this can’t be a good thing, either.  Just when we thought we were out of the woods, we took a wrong turn and were deeper in the brush than ever before.  I blame it on the end of the Cold War, personally.

And in many ways, it appeared that there was warming.  Not as much snow seemed to indicate that.  And the cold snaps, we all learned, can be expected because for some reason warming the planet creates variations that can lead to cold temperatures.  It’s all very confusing for the novice, but we can trust the science, I’m sure.

So, now I’m seeing both cold snaps and a lot of snow.  Not only, I am told, is this within the realm of possibility with global warming, but now this is an indication of the dangers of climate change.  Look at these storms!  They are causing problems: high winds, electrical outages possible, a foot or more of snow.  If we don’t do something, this may happen more often.  Just like the old days.  Except then, it wasn’t a big deal because the earth wasn’t warming.  But now it is a big deal.  See the difference?

Admittedly, I’m having a little fun with this whole thing.  The recently released report that tells us there is a consensus on global warming (even though every time I try and find scientists who don’t agree, I manage to find them without much of a problem) has made this a “hot” topic, lately. 

 I will say this much, it does seem to be a pretty solid consensus that there have been increases in temperature in some parts of the globe over the last 50 or so years.  Many will even concede that a slight trend started in the mid-1700s (which doesn’t really help the anthropologic element to it).   But it is not consistent across the globe, and in fact by some measures it is not true at all in most of the Southern Hemisphere.  Which kind of diminishes the “global” element to it.  But even if we say that there is some warming, that empirical element is about as far as any consensus goes in the matter.  I guess it’s in how you define consensus.  And then there’s the less obvious question about how trustworthy any consensus is at all.

So, let me tell you the goofy place I’m coming from.  I’m still reading and researching the matter, but I think we’re missing the huge picture, and I am guessing we’ll never actually see it.  It all has to do with electromagnetism.  The Sun, the Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy – all magnets.  All have poles.  All interact.   I won’t get into this now, and if you’ve never really read into this, it may not make any sense at all why the magnetic energy of all these things matters at all.  The fact is, it is a huge unknown, and there is a lot of speculation about the impacts of changes/reversals in the magnetic shield of the earth.   The reason it’s speculation is because nobody was around the last time a major change happened.  There is evidence that this will happen in our lifetimes, and some day I’ll get into why I think that’s the case, and why the interaction of all these things is behind any climate change we see, whether it’s warming or cooling.

Either that, or I’m a complete nutjob.  That’s entirely possible as well.  The scary thing is, the more snowed in we get, the more time I’ll have to sit around and think of things like this.

Posted in Climate Change, Global Warming, Magnetic Shield, Snow, Weather, Winter, Wisconsin | Leave a Comment »