Q&A: Does global warming cause more snow or less snow?

Question by Ottawa Mike: Does global warming cause more snow or less snow?
Before last winter’s excessive snow storms and the amount of snow and cold at the start of this winter, I recall most reports, studies, etc. point to global warming resulting in less snow, more rain, ski resorts closing, etc.

Here is a (small) sample of past statements linking snow and global warming:

“Climate change blamed for Olympic snow shortage”: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/01/28/bc-olympics-climate-change.html
“Global warming threatens ski resorts”: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4441-global-warming-threatens-ski-resorts.html
“Alps town can’t take the heat, shuts ski area”: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19851586/ns/us_news-environment/
“Less Snow,, Less Water:: Climate Disruption in the West”: http://www.environmentamerica.org/home/reports/report-archives/global-warming-solutions/global-warming-solutions/less-snow-less-water-climate-disruption-in-the-west
“Reduced snowfall in Himalayas due to global warming: study”: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/reduced-snowfall-in-himalayas-due-to-global/456556/

Okay, so what about all the snow and cold recently?

“Climate Scientist: Record-Setting Mid-Atlantic Snowfall Linked to Global Warming”: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/2/12/climate_scientist_record_setting_mid_atlantic
“Global warming may be contributing to the current heavy snow and subzero temperatures across Europe…”: http://climatesignals.org/2010/12/freeze-in-europe-linked-to-cold-wave-pushed-south-by-arctic-warming/
“There is some evidence that climate change could in fact make such massive snowstorms more common, even as the world continues to warm.”: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1962294,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Can anyone sort this out?
Okay, I get the increased evaporation. And I see some of you say that where you are depends on the increase or decrease in snowfall. I guess the basic global warming prediction is that some places will get more and some less.

Is there a geographical chart with these locations/projections? And is there historical data to show any linkage to temperature?

Best answer:

Answer by Jeff M
It matters what location in the world you live in and what average temperatures and current weather conditions are in that area. I’m sure you’re aware that there has only been a 0.7C rise in temperature due to an increase in greenhouse gases and longwave radiation in the troposphere. I’m also sure you’re aware that day-to-day and month-to-month weather variations exceed this level by, often, quite a substantial amount. I believe Trevor pointed out that the recent snowfall in Europe can be attributed to a change in the jetstream.


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8 thoughts on “Q&A: Does global warming cause more snow or less snow?”

  1. I’m still waiting for global warming. I actually want it, getting kind of cold here and winter hasn’t started. Last month it dropped to -32c or -25f about 45 min west of town. That’s unheard of in November. I want beach weather.

  2. global warming causes more snow and freezing. remember, this is a planet of 75% water surface. more heat caused by global warming produces more water evaporation. more clouds are produce to cool the planets surface, the planet tries to cool itself, also much more rain and flooding in between winter and summer. and summers would be extreamly hot and scorching. winters will cover the earth in snow and blizzards.

  3. let’s look at some of your links.

    “Climate change blamed for Olympic snow shortage”: “Winter snow season has been slowly shrinking in past 50 years, says researcher” OH, 1 guy says that climate change has caused less snow.

    “Global warming threatens ski resorts”: “In the coming decades, the report says, rising temperatures will steadily push the snowline up to higher altitudes – leaving many resorts below without reliable piste. In some countries such as Austria the snowline will rise by as much as 300 metres over the next 30 to 50 years. And in a worst case scenario not one of Australia’s nine ski resorts will be viable by 2070.”


    There’s a difference between how much snow falls,
    where that snow falls, and
    whether that snow stays on the ground.

    Warmer temps generally mean more evaporation. That makes more moisture available to fall as snow, if it’s cold enough. Since there are both warm and cold spells, it’s not unreasonable to think that there will, sometimes, be larger snow falls, in some places. However, if the “average” temp in those locations is not low enough to maintain that snow, it’s not likely to make skiing conditions any better.

    Places like the Sierra Nevada mountains in eastern Calif, where most of Calif, Nevada, and Arizona get most of their water are at particular risk. Precipitation may well increase, at least in the northern sections. However, if it all melts to quickly, then it will be more difficult to make it available through out the year.

    I also find it somewhat interesting that, last year, when there was a snow shortage, some blamed it on global warming. This year, when there’s an excess, some (the same ones?) blame it on la nina.

  4. It depends on where you are. If you are downwind of a large body of water, you get more snow. The water remains unfrozen longer and the added heat increases evaporation. That leads to more snow. If, on the other hand, you have a continental climate, the added heat will lead to more of the precipitation falling as rain. If you are in an arid area, it will become more arid and you will have less snow, if any. It all ties in with added heat.

  5. There seems little point in even trying to answer this sort of rhetorical nonsense, we both know full well you are not interested in real answers, but pushing denier fiction.
    Oh course as with other denier posts today you seem to have not bothered to even read your own links
    The Newscientist story (of 2003) gives timelines or 30-50 years given that the story is just 7 years old as with many denier claims the purchase of a simple calculator might be of some help or at least a calendar.

  6. All those articles are obviously planted by the Big Oil Anti-Anthropogenic Global Warming establishment to confuse the issue because we all know those are weather events and not related to global warming.

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