Sierra Nevada Snowfall Remains Stable

Published March 11, 2012

Annual snowfall in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains is showing no sign of decline, according to a study by University of Alabama-Huntsville climate scientist John Christy. The study’s results, accepted for publication in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Hydrometeorology, refute frequent assertions by global warming alarmists that global warming is adversely affecting Sierra Nevada snowfall and snowpack.

Christy found high quality snowfall records kept by the Southern Pacific Railroad going back more than 130 years. Before Christy’s study, however, nobody had entered the snowfall records into a dataset and analyzed the data for snowfall trends.

For quality control, Christy coupled the railroad data with other sources, including records maintained by hydropower and regional water systems that measured snowfall as a means of predicting annual snow melt. Additional data sources included logging and mining companies and National Weather Service stations.

Some atmospheric scientists have theorized global warming will reduce snowfall at lower elevations because temperatures will result in more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow. The same theory predicts global warming will cause more snowfall at higher elevations because warmer temperatures will allow the air to hold more precipitation-forming moisture, yet temperatures will remain too cold for rain.

Christy’s study showed the Sierra Nevada Mountains evidence rebuts the theory.

“Looking at both the 130-year record and the most recent 50-year record—which includes the 1975 to 2000 period when global temperatures rose—the California data show no long-term changes in snowfall in any region,” the press release observed.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

Internet Info:

“Despite this winter’s snow drought, California’s snow isn’t disappearing,” University of Alabama-Huntsville Earth System Science, Feb. 14, 2012: