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February 27, 2008

Global Storming? Rate This Winter

The snowiest February ever? One of the top 10 snowiest winters of all time?

The current storm is expected to solidify the winter of 2007/2008 among the all-time greats in Green Mountain history. Why doesn’t it feel that way?

Since I’m the last person who should be comparing winters around here (being such a newcomer and all), I am asking for your help. How would you rate this winter on a scale of 1 to 10?

My uneducated guess is that it’s a solid 7.5, which is somewhat confounding when you consider this winter has a chance to be one of the snowiest ever.

The problem, of course, is that in addition to all the snow we’ve gotten, we’ve also received loads of rain and sleet. So some of the would-be powder days have been monkey-wrenched by a wet layer that has turned eventually to crust. And once the crust layer sets up, it takes more than a foot of new snow to bury it for good.

I think this pattern says something about winters in a globally warmed world.

Like most passionate snowriders, I have always approached global warming from a powderhound’s perspective. The fact it has become a political screwdriver is irrelevant when it comes to predicting warming’s affect on face shots.

I start with the premise that, in the words of Buffalo Springfield, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

Whether it’s caused by humans or not, I think we’ve seen the world warm. And I think the recorded evidence and the Nobel Piece Prize-winning work of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change backs that up.

Eleven of the last twelve years (1995-2006) rank among the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850).

As of last year, warming seemed to be a boon to snow lovers. The theory that warming would invigorate the water cycle, that more moisture would be available for storms because of increased polar melting and evaporation (“It is very likely that heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported last year), seemed spot on.

How many huge storms came through Vermont last winter? Combined with the record-warm December, I figured that would be the template for winter in a climate-changed future. They would be shorter, but they’d be more intense. We’d sacrifice the early season for huge mid-winter payoffs.

If you look at what’s happened out West this year, with three- and four-day storms depositing 4 and 5 feet at a time, there seems to be (literally) mounting evidence for the idea of heavier precipitation events.

But this winter has added a new wrinkle in Vermont. Yes, more precipitation seems to be falling, we’ve had a handful of monster storms, we’re setting snowfall records. But, even during the mid-winter weeks, the storms have been vulnerable to mixing. There has been lots of snow, and lots of everything else.

So that’s why I ask, how has this winter been for you? What would you rate it on a 1 to 10 scale? Have you been able to enjoy the near-record snows or has the mixed precipitation and flat-out winter rain gotten in the way?

If global warming is as real as it feels, this could be a glimpse of what’s to come.

Meanwhile, at the risk of negating everything I just said, we’ve got some of the best conditions of the season out there right now. Maybe you should wait until after you track out the mountains today to rate '07/'08 so far.

February 27, 2008 at 06:19 AM | Permalink



Posted by: goldie | Feb 29, 2008 6:13:49 AM

Wow ... Where have you been skiing?

Posted by: J Starr | Feb 29, 2008 9:59:47 AM

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