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Air pollution is reducing mountain snowfall

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 
Crystal Clear Warnings

Los Angeles Times
Sat Sep 11, 7:55 AM ET

By Miguel Bustillo Times Staff Writer

Numerous scientific researchers are showing that pollution particles in clouds can reduce precipitation. But the Colorado snowflake studies provide some of the most detailed evidence yet that it is happening.

Many atmospheric experts believe the phenomenon could prove to be one of the most significant ways in which human beings are altering the Earth's weather patterns.

Yet it has received little public attention compared with a more controversial aspect of climate change, global warming, which many experts already consider a threat to Western water supplies.
Read article here.
post #2 of 47

Desert Research Institute climate research

www.dri.edu (click on about DRI and then on Stormpeak Lab)

That ariticle was written about some research done at DRI's Storm Peak lab on Mt Werner in the Steamboat Springs ski area. 1 of only 5 such high altitude weather research stations in the world.

Unfortunately, their research shows that pollution is lessening the snow in the west. Not good for skiers but much worse for the entire west which largely depends on snowfall and runoff for their water needs.

My son is a research metorologist for DRI and is currently working with the lab on their projects. He will also gather data next winter using their weather stations for his thesis. Really tough duty...he will stay on the mountain and ski or use a snow machine to access the data stations during snow storms.

I have volunteered my services...for anything....for a place to stay and ski passes. Cool work if you can get it. Guess that means that I will need a new pair of all mountain skis to handle the champaign powder.

This all proves that there is life after being a ski bum....and even get paid for it! Next year, Wrangell/ St Elias Park in Alaska....via helicoper.
post #3 of 47
I guess that is why Mt Baker set a world record for snowfall 4 years ago.......

More tree-hugger baloney.....
post #4 of 47

Tree hugger mentality

Your statement is an ignorant one.

Alyeska has also had some recent record seasons but Alaska as a whole is warming and has tremendous problems due to the increase in temps which might be in part to pollution. Particularly from the imerging industrial nations like China.

Global warming does not mean that in any given season in a given location that lots of snow or rain cannot occur. The scientific data on global warming is conclusive. The causes are still being debated but climatologists generally agree that human activity has caused a speed up in the process unprecendented in the historical record. Only time will tell if that is true but the consequences will be dramatic and there will be nothing that can be done. So far, most of the melting ice has been floating so that no changes have occured in sea level. If Greenland starts to melt it will be adding to the ocean levels and that is a major concern of the near future. Due to the difficulty in measuring ice thickness in such a remote place there is no data indicating that is occuring. Glaciers and ice are melting in the antarctic (but not on the continent itself) and in other northern regions. The arctic ocean might be navigable within a few years...possibly all year round. Maybe you or I will not see the final results but future generations will.

In the meantime, pollution is causing other health problems that alone would make it worth reducing. If it is also adding to the water problems of the west which are critical now that is another strong reason to support strong environmental actions.

Your statement seemed more a political one than a thoughtful one. The item posted was a reasonable one that should have been of interest to everyone. For that matter it should be of interest to everyone on the planet. The people doing the research are not tree huggers....they are serious scientists trying to unravel the incredibly complex mysteries of our global climate.
post #5 of 47
Something I've been wondering about -- what the hell is wrong with hugging trees anyway? Sure they don't hug back, but they won't sue either...
post #6 of 47
Yeah - I want to find one of those "Tree-Hugging Dirt-Worshipper" bumper stickers for my Thule rack.

Also, should this thread have been titled "For Better Skiing Vote Bush Out of Office?"
post #7 of 47
bsimeral, the L.A. Times article isn't quite clear on how small these things are, what their sources might be, and why they might have been exempt from regulation before. For example, would the new cleanup of US diesel fuels have any effect on these particles? Is there more information you can link us to?
post #8 of 47
its ironic that I've heard of studies a few years ago contradicting this one (sorry but I cannot recall when where off hand), but the principles in those were that the air polution was increasing the amount of precipitation that was falling (due to weighing down the water molecules in the clouds) and being a more stubstantial source for water polution (the rain would bring the air polution down and into the water supply). That theory went along with the idea of "seeding" the coulds (which is done in CO and UT I believe) to increase snowfall. Not decrease it, but who knows, scientists have released "conclusive" proof that contradicts "conclusive" proof before, and I'm sure they'll do it again.

Now in terms of global warning and whatnot, yeah, man has most likely increased the rate of warming, however, how many of you people running around claiming the sky is falling have done some research into the possiblity of the coming of a new ice age? Some scientists believe that we may actually still be in an Ice Age (on the very tail end of it though) while others think that we are heading into a new one. Research has shown that temperature fluctuations like we have seen in the past 20 or so years have happened previously (typically just before ice ages), so this isn't exactly a new phenominon. While I'm not condoning those that do polute the air, I'm also not going to sit here and panic that the world is changing. Earth has been around for a long time, and will be around for a long time after we're all gone and we are just begining to understand/acknowledge the cycles that occur.
post #9 of 47
Those of us who are familiar with the mountain environment and the out of doors tend to be aware of the power of nature. Our respect for the forces we are accustomed to dealing with naturally cause us to be sceptical of theories propounded by wild eyed "nature loving" suburban and urban dwellers. We know that what we've observed and contended with is dangerous and unpredictable and tend to discount these theories which appear to spring from naivete. Nonetheless, we shouldn't close our eyes to solid scientific research or what we ourselves may have observed for that matter. I don't know if warming is caused by human intervention or even if it is not only a short term cyclical event but there is no question that I have observed a warming in our New England winters during my own lifetime. Closing your eyes and mind to the growing body of evidence throughout the globe from receding glaciers to diminshed Arctic ice is just plain foolish. The human contribution of particulates, gasses and heat is measurable as well and not imaginary.
post #10 of 47
Well, almost all of North America was once covered in glaciers and they have been receeding since before man had arrived. There is also evidence that tropical climates once occured much further north then does currently which proves we've also had much warmer climate then we currently do, even before the ice age.

It really doesn't matter what man does, we can't stop climate change no matter how much some think we can. As far as pollution goes, it was far worse in the early-mid- 1900's then it is today. No longer do we have stacks puffin' smoke out of every town, or dumping waste into every river and creek.... Our cars barely put out anything close to what those old cars of the 60's use to do..

So, what are we talking about now???
post #11 of 47
Just a quick point regarding the comparative levels of pollution of today versus earlier in the century: we can thank those damned tree huggers for the improvements in the environment that have taken place. It was the protests of the bunny-huggers that changed public sentiment and brought about positive change.
post #12 of 47
I have to argue the point. I really think that in many areas of the country, the air is actually cleaner than it was 20 years ago.

I do think that in some parts of major cities it might be worse than in others but fail to see how it is actually going to cause a reduction in snow as rain and snow form around dirt particals.

The climate changes every year reguardless. We've just experienced one of the coolest summers on record fo this part of N.Y. But that's why records are kept.

Things aren't going to be much different 20 years from now. And anyhow, no one wants to change their way of life bad enough to make a significant improvement in the climate or the ozone depletion so why debate the point.
post #13 of 47

Global Warming and Climate Change

Leaving out the potential for catastrophic changes due to the Greenland icecap melting, there still is cause for concern (and some skier specific negative consequences) about global warming.

Projections for the next 50 years would indicate that in the Western U.S. and Canada, winter precipitation is likely to increase (URL of map follows):


At the same time winter temperatures are forecast to increase between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius (URL of map follows):


This may add up to more rain and less snow. Certainly up in our neck of the woods the rapid and accelerating retreat of alpine glaciers is already prompting some contingency planning for our future water supply. There is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that global warming is real, and that in the long run it will have a tremendously negative impact on human populations. I already have a long list of good reasons in my mind as to why we need to do something (soon) to try and slow down or reverse the process, but I'll gladly add keeping ski hills open longer to that list.
post #14 of 47
It's amazing how knowledge, including hard science of course, has become politicized. In the seventies there was fear of another Ice Age. In the 19th century Industrialization worldview, the environment was for humanity's commercial exploitation. Prior to that the people were controlled by the environment, and for ten thousand years or so, worshipped it. Our world has always been a canvas for our perceptions, which means it's time for a drink.
post #15 of 47

More information

bolide, I will ask DRI if more information is available on this study and post if available.

Someone else commented on how much better our cars are than 40 years ago and that is right but there are more of them and trucks remain unregulated for the most part. One of the areas of concern today is the rapid industrial development in China, India and elsewhere with few environmental restrictions. It has been documented that pollution from China is making its way to North America. Those countries could have a massive impact on the global environment dwarfing what we do or not do.

The other point I would make is that we currently have an administration that will roll back environmental controls (for instance, on coal fired power plants) if they can. Our situation could worsen. I had offices in both Manila and Mexico City in the 70s and 80s....walking a few blocks your face would have soot all over it. Not pleasant or healthy.

The earth has never had such a dominant species as man with with the ability to impact by design or inadvertantly our global environment. And global population is growing rapidly. I would never be one to say the "sky is falling" but things are changing. Scientists are sure that human activities are contributing but no one knows what the end result will be. How will the earth react to the increased co2? More vegetation....if man does not cut it all down first.

Panic is not called for but I would rather err on the side of caution for the benefit of future generations. If we could move from a carbon based 19th century economy to a mixed energy base, the side benefit would be to lesson our dependence on oil and the middle east. Many of the environmental arguments would diminish. America is in the best position to do that and benefit economically, environmentally, and politically. All we need is the will to do it.

As for the comments about the earth being around a long time...sure, 5 bil years and humans have only been on it for a few million. How much longer will we survive if we do not use its resources wisely to the benefit of all? There are too many people and resources are finite except for water which renews itself globally if not in a given region.

After all this serious conversation I am ready to go skiing (no snow in the midwest)....or at least drinking! And forget about these problems for now.
post #16 of 47

More information?

bolide, I did not find anything. Not sure that this study is published yet. The main researcher is Douglas Lowenthal...you might do a google search and see if more comes up.

Here is the link to dri, storm peak lab. Not much detail just a brief description of the research:


I will ask my son if he is aware of anything published on this research.

As for diesel fuels they do account for a lot of pollution and have been largely unregulated. Of course, the pollution problem is not confined to our borders or anyone elses. We can solve "our problems" but still be subject to pollution from elsewhere. Jet pilots have reported seeing the haze increase even over the oceans with no human population within 000s of miles. This is all anecdotal stuff and what organizations like DRI try to do is quantify the data. Until recent years there just was not enough computing power to even begin to analyze climate in any detail. Today, computer clusters and much more powerfull, cheap computers help. Many more weather collection stations are being deployed to collect data and get a better picture of the climate mechanisms.

In the meantime, I keep thinking about the Chiffon margarine commercial 20 or 30 years ago...."don't fool with mother nature."
post #17 of 47
Originally Posted by bsimeral

The earth has never had such a dominant species as man with with the ability to impact by design or inadvertantly our global environment.
Don't forget dinosaur flatulence, and we know what happened to them!

Just kidding! I am remended that global environmental assessments generally note the flatulence of cattle as a major contributor to global air pollution.
post #18 of 47

more people than cattle

oisin, I am reminded that there are more people than cattle....except in India where they cannot kill them.

Recent reports note that large urban centers have a very high concentration of methane and could ignite without warning! Ski areas, due to their low population are generally safe unless you are in a box canyon.....

Now, hog farms are another problem!
post #19 of 47
This month's National Geographic devotes much of the issue to global warming in the first of a three part series on the subject. It is a very sobering article that concludes this is much more than merely a cyclical event and that much of the greenhouse effect has been produced by industrial activity and urbanization here and abroad. CO2 levels which are a big part of the problem are both oderless and colorless but are very real. Whatever, your thoughts on the subject, the article is worth reading.
post #20 of 47
Yea, and Business Week had an aticle a few weeks ago that said it was a certainty and that human activity was to blame. Folks people have been making serious financial decisions based on climate change for 5-10 years now. Not that Rush Limbaugh would ever admit he's wrong but he's about the only person denying it anymore.

CO2 levels are off the chart when you look at our history over thr last say 100 million years or more. And yes there have been cycles before but humans have had a lot of impact on the world that makes it much harder to adjust. As just one exmaple how are we going to have mass animal migrations to different climate zones when we have chopped up the natural world into little enclaves of parks and wilderness areas seperate by interstate highways and what not? Not to metion that we have come to rely on and appreciate certain temperatures and amounts of precipitation, right?

I think ignoring what is a very real threat is the worst kind of head in the sand mentailty. And I'm surprised (ok, not really..) that so many conservatives want to deny it when the evidence is as plain as day and people making money bets on it believe it.
post #21 of 47

PAAAHHHHLEEEEEEEZZZZZeeeeee Get the facts here!

Major Concentric Zones of Earth

Dr Conor Nixon Spring 2004

MAGNETOSPHERE: region of charged particles above the atmosphere, from 200 km to 100,000 km above the surface.

ATMOSPHERE: gas layer, from surface to 200 km altitude.

HYDROSPHERE: or ocean, including ice caps, which covers ¾ of the surface.

CRUST: the solid surface of the Earth, about 10-30 km thick.

MANTLE: the solid but plastic rock layer extending to 2900 km belowe the surface.

CORE: metal sphere, divided into outer (liquid) and inner (solid).

ASTR 330: The Solar System

Important Earth Facts

Dr Conor Nixon Spring 2004

From the perspective of the planetary system, we need to take note of the following:


Earth is the only planet with liquid water on the surface.

The Earth is partially obscured by clouds, the extent of which varies considerably.

Polar caps exist, which change their coverage seasonally.

The atmosphere is 21% oxygen, a highly reactive gas not abundant elsewhere in the planetary system.

CO2 is a minor fraction, 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere.


From the above you can conclude since CO2 is such a small small percentage, if the CO2 level went from 1% to 1.5% the wacko's could conclude a 50% increase in "greenhouse gasses" not saying that the percentage was only an increase of from 1% to 1.5%........(this is hypothetical, but how they work numbers to scare people)..
post #22 of 47
No point arguiing with idiots..
post #23 of 47

co2 content

It is not the environmental wackos (we can tell which radio commentator you listen to) but serious scientists who are beginning to conclude that human activity is a causative. While a given mix might be a small percentage changing it, even a small amount, can have an effect on a given system. Even small changes, like a degree or two in average world temperatures can have a drastic effect on the system. That is fact and well documented.

What is known is that the system is changing in an unprecedented way and rate.

What is not known fully is what is causing it and how will the sytem change and what effect on life, as we know it, be. The National Geographic articles provide a good summary of it and should be read by any considerate person.

No serious scientists are saying they have all the answers but they have some of them. The people who do not consider these findings are doing so out of ignorance and faith in something????? If we do not act to amerlioate the changes the possible consequences will be drastic. It could be another episode on earth where most of the species face extinction to be replaced by ones more adapted to the new environment. Food for thought.....not a sky is falling warning. Also, science has concluded that environmental change often does not occur slowly but rapidly when the changes hit a trigger point where the system can no longer be sustained.

The USA should be the leader in the research and development of products and industries to move away from a carbon based economy. There are many economic and political benefits (no wars in the middle east) if we do so. And it would improve the general environment and the health of all who live in it. That is an immediate benefit. The argument of environmental armageddon is something to consider but far from fact.

Anyway, wouldn't it be nice to tell the arabs and others to take their oil and shove it up their....whatever they want.
post #24 of 47
......."what is not fully known is what is causing it,".....this is method? It appears "science" is again subsumed within a leftist/marxist ideology.
post #25 of 47
Why is that some people insist on calling anyone who thinks that perhaps the billions of tons of effluent that we pump into the atmosphere might have a negative effect a "wacko"? These people who deny man's affect on the atmosphere remind me of the apologists for the tobacco lobby, who insisted for years that, absent a clear smoking gun, the evidence that smoking is bad for you was inconclusive.
post #26 of 47
Originally Posted by Colossus178
Why is that some people insist on calling anyone who thinks that perhaps the billions of tons of effluent that we pump into the atmosphere might have a negative effect a "wacko"? These people who deny man's affect on the atmosphere remind me of the apologists for the tobacco lobby, who insisted for years that, absent a clear smoking gun, the evidence that smoking is bad for you was inconclusive.

Because MAN can't change the climate as some of you think we can. If so, we would control it and have it do as we wish....... The climate changes no matter what we do..... I call people wacko's that would want to rid us of all cars, hug a tree and let people die, feel man is the worse thing to ever happen to this earth, think a cow is on even par with humans...........those people are wacko's. They want to pretend that man never existed and rid the world of technology...........
post #27 of 47
Get off the soapbox Hyak!

The whole thing is screwed up and burying your head in the sand for another 10 or twenty years won't help a thing. The answer to the problem regardless of how you see it, is 'alternatives'. ...Sadly, these alternatives get about as much press as a good snowfall at a ski resort.

Its pitiful!!!
post #28 of 47
Originally Posted by feallen
Get off the soapbox Hyak!

The whole thing is screwed up and burying your head in the sand for another 10 or twenty years won't help a thing. The answer to the problem regardless of how you see it, is 'alternatives'. ...Sadly, these alternatives get about as much press as a good snowfall at a ski resort.

Its pitiful!!!

Its no soapbox, I just like a good discussion....no big deal. Everyone has a right to their opinion and if we all thought the same then discussion would be pretty boring....

BTW, its snowing in the Cascades!!!
This was today....

post #29 of 47
I am not engaged in ad hominem attacks...the question is what is causing the problemmatic rise....earth's wobbly axis? solar flares? deforestation/ industrialization of the Third World? hair spray? Chinese vendors frying rats to go in their woks? The Kyoto Treaty, to use a recent example of politicized science, was a concerted effort to undermine the US economic base. Do you want a mule team working the ski lift? There are also questions of national self-determination, property rights and ultimately, individual rights, all in the name of "science." When "science" begins to violate the Constitution, "science" has become politicized. We are back to despotic coercion; to the Church burning Galileo for threatening it's dogma and authority.

Now, back to skis 'n snow......
post #30 of 47

Science is not guided by ideology

Originally Posted by Mainiac
......."what is not fully known is what is causing it,".....this is method? It appears "science" is again subsumed within a leftist/marxist ideology.
Contrary to your comments science (not journalism) is not subsumed by ideology. Scientists worldwide are collecting and examining data to better understand how the climate engine works. The statement I made (what is not fully known is what is causing it) refers to the fact that they know there are cyclical changes, catastrophic ones (like volcanic eruptions & meteors), and now human causes affecting climate change. What is not known is exactly how much of each is contributing the current warming trend. 10 or 20 years ago there was doubt in regard to whether human causes were significant but that debate has been settled.
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