Snow pack data points to better than expected

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Lex Story, Apr 6, 2013.

  1. Lex Story

    Lex Story Angler, Gastronomist, Artist, Jarhead, Geek

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  2. Golden Trout

    Golden Trout Active Member

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  3. Lex Story

    Lex Story Angler, Gastronomist, Artist, Jarhead, Geek

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    Please resend link. It doesn't work for me in its current format
     
  4. Richard Olmstead

    Richard Olmstead BigDog

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    There is an interesting caveat to this report that isn't mentioned, but affects one's perspective, if this is something you have followed over the years.

    Every 10 years NOAA recalculates what is 'normal' to the most recent 30 years of records. So, the 2011-12 winter was the first calculated under the 1980-2010 snowpack data. Throughout much of the west, including the PNW, the 2000-2010 snowpack was substantially lower than the 1970-1980 data. This means that the 112% of 'normal' snowpack this year, might have been closer to 100% of normal 2 years ago, because 'normal' has shifted to a lower baseline.

    With global warming, that baseline is likely to continue to shift downward. So, when old timers (I guess I'm getting pretty close to this myself) say that this ain't nuthin' compared to what it used to be, even though the snowpack reports are saying greater than average snowfall, there's an explanation that isn't just foggy memory.

    Dick
     
  5. Old Man

    Old Man Just an Old Man

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    As I look around the mountains here in Dillon I don't see much in the way of any snow left. Only the high peaks have some snow left. The ones about 9,000'.

    Don't look for the rivers to have much left running down hill in the late summer.
     
  6. Brookie_Hunter

    Brookie_Hunter aka Dave Hoover

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    Very interesting Dick, thanks for providing that important subtlety. I guess it's similar to how the national unemployment figure continues to shrink....because the denominator (e.g. number of people in the work force) keeps getting smaller.
     
  7. Lex Story

    Lex Story Angler, Gastronomist, Artist, Jarhead, Geek

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    My mistake Golden trout. I was trying to access the link you posted via my Kindle Fire and the OS it could not process the PDF document. I am able to see it now on my PC.
     
  8. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    Why would NOAA do that?
     
  9. Golden Trout

    Golden Trout Active Member

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    Thank you Dick. Very well put. We must be ever vigilant when it comes to "average", "normal", "natural", etc.
     
  10. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

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    How far back would you like the baseline to go? If you go back 20,000 years ago, then this year's snowfall is way below normal because all of Puget Sound was under a mile of ice.....

    I am surprised that NOAA does not use a running average of the previous 30 years: drop the oldest year and add in the last year. That would produce a smoother comparison. Also, one needs to consider long-term weather forcers, such as the frequency and intensity of El Nino / La Nina events as well as longer-term cyclic phenomena.

    Steve
     
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  11. Richard Olmstead

    Richard Olmstead BigDog

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    I don't know why NOAA doesn't do a running average; one would think that would be easy enough.

    Here's a link to a short piece on this subject from the High Country News a few issues back. This may be behind a paywall; sorry if that's the case (but you all should be reading the High Country News, anyway).
    http://www.hcn.org/issues/45.2/a-new-normal-for-snow

    Let me see if I can copy/paste the graphic into this reply.

    image.jpg
     
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  12. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

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    Hi Richard,
    Thank you for sharing that article and especially the graph. That highlights the issue very nicely. The "new normal" peaks about 5 inches (85%) lower than the "old normal".

    Steve
     
  13. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    Well, excluding that data (Puget Sound under a mile of ice) sorta skews the facts a bit don't you think? Seems a bit odd to call something the "new normal" and selectively decide what parts of history we use to compare to the old normal.
     
  14. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

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    I don't know enough about meterological history to know why 30 years should be the magic number. From a purely statistical sense, 30 years does give one enough data points to smooth out typical year-to-year variation (such as an El Nino year or two). Do you have a recommendation for a better standard? Five years?, Two years? 100 years? Of course, an alternative is to ignore the comparison totally and just use the raw numbers for snowpack (e.g., cm or inches during the season). But those are less valuable for the general public without any context, hence the standard for "normal snowpack". "Oh, last year we were 125% of normal and the high lakes weren't accessible until August." Or "Oh, last year we were 75% of normal and the rivers dropped into shape very early."

    Steve
     
  15. Richard Olmstead

    Richard Olmstead BigDog

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    In addition to Cabezon's reply, I suspect that there are some changes to the number and placement of snowpack measurement stations from time to time, so while estimates of snowpack from individual stations could be kept (and no doubt are) over longer periods of time, estimates of river basin snowpack might change as the location and number of stations change, giving rise to some discontinuity in such aggregate estimates.

    Dick
     
  16. Gary Knowels

    Gary Knowels Active Member

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    I think it is interesting that while the max snow peak is greater in the older data set, the melt out seems to finish earlier as well. Points to a shift in climate towards more moderate climate instead of extremes on both ends.
     
  17. Kent Lufkin

    Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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    Seems to me this very subject came up within the past year or so and someone mentioned that indeed that was the case. Some measurement stations that had been in place for decades had been moved or abandoned as there was no longer any snow to measure at their old position.

    K
     
  18. Vladimir Steblina

    Vladimir Steblina Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working

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    I think the PRIMARY purpose of Sno-Tel sites is too generate estimates of electrical power generation and availability of irrigation water for the water year. I suspect that is the reason for 20 year rollover average. PUD's and irrigation districts need accurate estimates that they can compare to recent time frames to see if they will need to purchase or how much surplus electricity they will have to sell. Likewise irrigation districts need to notify junior water right holders if there is not enough water for them.

    So the sites on generally picked on that basis. Some poorly located sites are dropped because they do not ADD INFORMATION.

    I was involved with one site that was moved due to Wilderness classification. The new site was a very poor predictor of run-off and the PUD wanted back to the original site. Both sites were calibrated for baseline conditions, and the correlation was poor between the two sites. So the PUD wanted back to the original site since their flow estimates for the coming year were pretty poor with the new site.

    Because of the trend lines there is some important data there, and it can be easily reconstructed if you want long-term trends. The problem is sometimes the stuff you measure changes over time along with the measurement techniques. Lots of problems with data measurement over a hundred years. Go look at the Natiional Weather Service data for eastern Washington.

    I read a report by BPA once, and they had a cool graphic showing Columbia River flows year by year since I believe 1930 or so. That's 80 years of data that should be pretty consistent....but if the analysis shows warming, how are we not sure that it is the dam operation, the Columbia Basin irrigation project, or reforestation in the Cascades.

    I did do a study one time when I found timber cruise data for the Wenatchee National Forest from the early 1900's. The cruise data showed 3,000 bd. ft/acre in 1900 and 20,000 bd.ft/acre in 1990. In 1990 there were almost 2,000 trees per acre on that landscape.

    That is a hell of a change!! How did that change on several million acres affect river flows??

    My concern with global warming is that there is a lot more effort going into computer modeling than actually collecting field data and observations.

    For example, there is some evidence that jet contrails as responsible for as much as 40% of global warming. Satellite pictures actually show contrails morphing in clouds and then temperatures for gone up for NIGHTTIME, but not DAYTIME. Which fits pretty good with observation.

    There is one theory we can test pretty quickly by stopping commercial jet flights for five years or so.....notice only Europeans are talking about reducing jet flights!! Boy, if President Obama would support a jet flight moratorium we would be able to start testing some theories!!
     
  19. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

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    Very interesting comment on the role of contrails. I remember that after 9/11, scientists used the flight moratorium to estimate the impact of contrails on U.S. climate. I found a nice NOVA summary of some of the issues and opinions on their impact. You can read that here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/contrail-effect.html.

    Steve
     
  20. Richard Olmstead

    Richard Olmstead BigDog

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    Vladimir, I appreciate your insights that have obviously come from years of experience 'on the ground' and following the science, but this quote from your last post:

    "My concern with global warming is that there is a lot more effort going into computer modeling than actually collecting field data and observations."

    is so far off the truth of climate change research that I'm baffled as to where it came from.

    Yes, climatologists use models to make predictions, which often are featured in media representations of climate change, and, yes, there are many excellent theoretical climatologists involved with this research, but they are dwarfed in terms of research funding and numbers of scientists involved by the researchers out there conducting empirical experiments and gathering data, which, in turn, feed back into the models that continue to be improved.

    Dick
     
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