June 14, 2007

The Big Thaw

National Geographic Magazine has posted their latest cover story online: The Big Thaw, on the Earth’s vanishing icepack. That the world’s glaciers and permanent snowfields are melting is certainly not news. What is surprising is how fast the ice is melting.

The loss of polar ice and glaciation has been predicted for years. But scientists are now finding themselves astonished by the rate of melt. Says Eric Rignot, at NASA’s JPL, “We see things today that five years ago would have seemed completely impossible, extravagant, exaggerated.”

National Geographic’s article offers an alarming explanation of the discrepancy (hint: are you familiar with the ‘Tipping Point’ theory?). If you are interested in that vast, uncontrolled human experiment known as Global Warming, I recommend reading the entire article.

It is a preview, I fear, of many more surprises to come.

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March 29, 2007

El Nino or El Nada?

Some of you may recall this was supposed to be an El Nino Winter, with above-average precipitation for the western United States.

What happened? This winter can be charitably described as a cruel hoax: currently, Los Angeles is (arguably) experiencing its driest winter on record.

To the north, even Mt. Shasta (!) is experiencing a dry winter—though dry for them is still looking mighty good compared to what’s happening down south.

Before we abandon all hope, yes, there is snow in the High Sierra. Look for touring opportunities in the Mammoth Lakes region, north through Yosemite/Tioga Pass, to the Sawtooths and Twin Lakes. No guarentees, however, as to whether any of it will be skiable through May, so plan your road trips early.

On the subject of weather, here’s an interesting LA Times article on a ‘rebel’ climatologist who correctly predicted we’d see record drought, rather than the wet season expected by everyone else. Interesting, no?

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January 12, 2007

Sierra Winter?

As we continue to hear reports of more snow in Colorado, prospects on the home front remain kind of…well…dismal.

Over at the ESAC, Sue Burak’s avy forecast for the day notes, “There is more hazard from hitting rocks than starting an avalanche.”

On top of that, a bitter cold snap is settling over the range, promising to stir up stability troubles that could linger throughout the season.

Does this sound familiar? Last year looked almost identical at this time, though the cold snap didn’t really kick in until February.

Of course, I’d welcome the second half of last year, when record snows blanketed the Sierra (minus the instabilities, please), but these dry early winters certainly test the spirits.

If you like to engage is such speculations, it does make me wonder if we’re getting a glimpse of a human-induced warmer future. At least the Coloradans are happy. And the San Juans are only a quick 14 hour drive away. Sigh.

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