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Consecutive Wyoming Avalanches Remind Us of Hidden Dangers of Weather Patterns Shifted and Intensified by Global Warming

Posted Jan 22 2009 3:54pm

A Meteorological Yoyo

It is official. The year 2008 was among the warmest and coldest on record.

How’s that?

Indeed, as the climate crisis continues to unfold, we see more predictions of historic atmospheric shifts come to fruition. Way back in May, I told you about disruptive avalanches. Well, we just had another, two, in fact, near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They were especially disruptive because they happened sequentially, a fatally rare occurrence.

The Wyoming avalanches were part of a barrage of winter weather which struck nearly half of the continental United States in December, dropping huge quantities of snow and ice on dozens of cities and, sadly, killing a great many people. The record quantities of frozen precipitation were preceded by record rainfall in other places, which left horrible flooding in the nation’s midsection. Each storm occurred within mere days of the next.

When I traveled to Maine for my sister’s wedding, which was ushered in by several feet of gorgeous snow powder, my flight both ways nearly was canceled because of separate blizzards. However, as soon as the second storm ended, New York City, which had been buried in snow right before Christmas, saw its daytime temperatures shoot up to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit and then plummet for New Year’s Eve with wind chill factors near zero.

These huge, unseasonable swings in temperature are the partial result of global warming, as the atmosphere attempts to compensate for disruptions in its temperature regulating mechanisms. They also are how we can say that 2008 was among the warmest and coldest years on record. It was the coldest since the turn of the new millennium but, despite the aforementioned record snow storms and blizzards, was among the warmest in history when measured as a function of global mean temperature.

So, as you ponder the question of just how much snow Mother Nature can send to any particular spot during a given winter season, remember that the atmospheric systems which create snow no longer work as reliably as before because we have bent their cogs and chipped their flywheels. Even if we begin repairs today, which effectively would be impossible on such short notice, every revolution of those mechanisms will lead to further degradation. It is a sad reality which is as predictable as the dawn.

Fomenting the Triple Bottom Line

Corbett Kroehler

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