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Snowier everywhere but in the models

19 Feb 2020 | Science Notes

We recently noted that Northern Hemisphere records show the fall and winter seasons have been getting snowier on average even though many people believe the opposite, namely that winters in their younger days were far snowier. Our faulty memories appear to have something in common with climate models. A recent paper in the peer-reviewed journal Geosciences compared observed snow cover trends over 1967 to 2018 with the predictions from 24 climate models. The models also said that fall and winter used to be snowier and should now be getting less snowy. And yet reality didn't cooperate. Funny how that happens.

The authors of the study looked at all four seasons. The news wasn't all bad for models. They said spring and summer should also be getting less snowy and the data confirmed that it has happened. But even then it wasn’t in the right places. As the authors noted:

The climate models were found to poorly explain the observed trends. While the models suggest snow cover should have steadily decreased for all four seasons, only spring and summer exhibited a long-term decrease, and the pattern of the observed decreases for these seasons was quite different from the modelled predictions.

Even if it was getting less snowy in winter it would not self-evidently be a bad thing. But whether we want it to or not, it isn't. Since the models being used to tell governments that we face a crisis all said it would, the only crisis is that we're descending into a modern mania based on demonstrably faulty forecasts.

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