On the Hill: Still doubting climate change? | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: Still doubting climate change?

ASPEN ” Friends and sources in the environmental movement insist you can never, ever make arguments pro or con on climate change based on short-term weather patterns.

Nevertheless, given the recent weather, I cannot resist needling those folks who derisively yucked it up about “global warming” when we had a super snowy and cold December. (You know who I’m talking about, G. G.) As the snow piled up, critics dismissed enviros as fear-mongers and opportunists who saw global warming as a way to build their budgets and guarantee work. All I know is the weather in these parts sure seems to be getting strange, make that stranger. Take a dry fall, pack a wallop of snowstorms in December, turn up the heat in February and repeat. Sound familiar?

The last two winters have provided excellent skiing conditions. Nevertheless, they weren’t exactly “normal” seasons. We got a healthy dose of snow in October both seasons, then it dried up. December was a powder hound’s delight, both seasons. The full fury of winter was crammed into about seven or eight weeks in December and January 2007-08. Winter’s fury was crammed into four or five weeks (so far) this season.

Last season, snowfall totals dropped and temperatures soared starting in February. This season, the entire second half of January qualified as a “thaw,” and February has been bizarre. Rain? In Aspen? All day on Feb. 23?

Thankfully, temperatures dropped enough at higher elevations Monday night to produce a nice powder morning. Some forecasts say rainy winter days and soaring temperatures will become the norm for the Rocky Mountain region. Scientists say winters will be compressed, with warmer and possibly drier shoulder seasons. Precipitation may remain impressive in the mountains, but more of it will fall as rain. Warmer temperatures will push the snow line farther up the hill.

Maybe it will snow every day in March and it will be colder than hell ” fueling skepticism about climate change. There will be no complaint from me. But I have a sinking feeling the long-term trend looks like the weather we have experienced recently.

One source that examined the implications of climate change on ski resorts was compiled by Colorado College as part of its impressive “State of the Rockies” report in 2006. Check it out for yourself at http://www.ColoradoCollege.edu/StateoftheRockies.


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