2-21-2010 Here comes the next snowstorm across the US after a little lull in the pattern. In the Toledo area, our snow has been slowly melting. There are places that the ground is bare and others with only a few inches (about 5 cm) of snow. There are only a few drifts and piles of snow where it is deeper than 2 inches (5 cm). I had the chance to get out on my cross country skiis this afterrnoon. I joked to my familiar that I won the 2 K cross country skiing race on Rauch Rd. in Temperance, MI. Of course, I was the only one in the race. This next snowstorm could get us pretty good in the Toledo area. It will all depend on how much freezing rain, sleet and just plain rain that we get. The storm is forecast to come right over Toledo so the rain/snow line will be close. In Columbus, OH it is likely to be only rain. Then, the low pressure system is expect to develop off of the east coast which is very common with this type of winter storm. The question for Washington, DC will be whether there is enough cold weather in place to support snow.
Snow cover is quite extensive around the world (see the figures below).
Snow cover in Europe and Asia and sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean. Note that the snow cover is pretty extensive. Also, I have highlighted with arrows where ice is growing fast 1. in the Sea of Okhotsk near eastern Russia and in the Barents Sea north of Scandanavia. The Barents Sea has had trouble freezing up for about a decade now possibly due to warmer than average currents coming up that way.
You can see in this figure from the National Snow and Ice Data Center that the area of the Arctic of northeastern Canada including the St. Lawrence Seaway is not very ice covered. It will be interesting to see if this area gets ice before the melt season starts around March 1.
El Nino seems to be slowly on the decline. The figure below shows that the warm pool of water in the equatorial Pacific is about 2.23 C warmer than the long-term mean. This is less than it has been in several months though. I had seen forecasts from NOAA that predict El Nino to dissipate by the summer. It looks like El Nino brought us a very warm January. According to some accounts, it was the second warmest January worldwide. Jeff Masters wrote about it in his blog on the Weather Underground http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1433.
This has certainly been a memorable winter for many areas of the United States (but maybe not Toledo). We have had cold temperatures go all the way down to Florida that threatened strawberries and oranges in January. Several Mid-Atlantic cities saw two blizzards in one week and have broken the all-time snow records for the total amount of snow. And, at one point last week, 49 out of the 50 states had snow in them, all but Hawaii.
So, are the snowstorms in the south due to Global Warming? A friend of mine from graduate school, Jeff Masters, writes a blog for the Weather Underground http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1431. He says that the snow is consistent with climate models. And, some scientists have published research that shows that under global warming, the stratosphere cools and that leads to stronger jet stream and stronger storms. I’m not sure I agree with this. Not using a climate model but using basic science concepts, I would expect storms to be weaker with global warming. The storms in the mid-latitudes are due to the temperature difference between the poles and equator. With a warmer Earth, the poles will warm more than the equator. That would make storms not as strong. It is an interesting scientific discussion. Dr. C