Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Snow job over warming in Washington.

The story went that the snowpack in the Cascade mountains of Washington state had shrunk by 50 percent. As the Seattle Times reports “It’s been presented as glaring evidence of the cost exacted by global warming --- the drying up of a vital water source.”

The Times notes this claim was repeated in official government reports, on “environmental Web sites and in media coverage.” They even mention that the mayor of Seattle made the same claim in the Times itself in a column he wrote for them. But they say there is a small problem: “The number is dead wrong.”

Associate state climatologist Mark Albright read these claims in the media and wrote to colleagues saying that he saw no evidence of steady shrinking of any degree. The climatologists all agreed the 50% figure was bogus.

The claim originated with an article co-authored by Phil Mote, state climatologist for Washington. So how was this figure discovered?

First, the base year was chosen as 1950. Why? Apparently 1950 had an unusually high level of snowpack that year. If you pick the high point on the graph you can show rapid decline quite easily.

I see this all the time in the environmental alarmists. This is precisely what they did with hurricanes. They talk about the increase of hurricans since 1970 without telling people that every other decade in the last century had higher hurricane levels. I’ve see famine alarmists pick a year when grain yields were usually low (due to low prices for the grain due to oversupply the previous year) and then proclaim that hunger is around the corner for America as food production plummets. Short trends are preferred to long trends because with short trends you can prove almost anything provided you start with the right year and end with the right year.

Not only was this snowpack claim based on a base year when snowpack was well above average Albright then projected out to a period when the snowpack was unusually low. Another climatologist from the area, Cliff Mass, said that in recent years the snowpack increased and that “there is littler change in snowpack in the past 30 years.” The state climatologist from neighboring Oregon, George Taylor, also found the claim wrong. “He pointed out it would have been more appropriate to choose the 1930s or 1940s and showed that changes since those starting points were negligible, suggesting natural variability and not global warming was largely responsible.”

By ending his study in the mid 1990s Albright excluded the last decade from the equation. This meant ignoring some of the highest snowfalls ever recorded in the area. The Mt. Baker ski area in the 1998/99 snow season reported 1,140 inches of snow, the highest amount ever reported in the United States in one spot.

Remember this is merely a discussion of snowpack in one region of the country and was not about global warming though the alarmists were using it as “proof” of the dire impact of global warming. Mote was not happy that his claims were debunked by fellow scientists so he decided to do something about it.

He wrote Albright informing him that in the future any email discussions he has on the topic of snowpack had to be reviewed by Mote first. Albright found this rather unusual and not in line with normal science at all. He was not going to seek prior approval for conversations on science. Mote responded and told Albright he was no longer affiliated with the office of state climatologist. Mass said: “In all my years of doing scient, I’ve never seen this sort of gag-order approach to doing science.”