The New Spring Normal?

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jmanner
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The New Spring Normal?

Post by jmanner » Fri Apr 16, 2021 9:38 am

The post about counting ski descents got me thinking about some things that have been on the back of my mind the last few years. With this potential mega drought we might have entered and anthropogenic climate change make this warm, short spring here to stay? Obviously, this kind of logic doom thinking is dangerous for a skier in Colorado, but are the old standards of ski mountaineering even fair for the "younger generation?" Will we even be able ski these lines safely in a 2C warmer world? Will the snow pack go from garbage facets to melted off in under two weeks, kind of like this year? I don't know, but is it reasonable for us to demand adherence to standards set for winter and ski descents in the 1970->1990s, when those conditions are not coming back in anyones lifetime, short of geo-engineering projects or a very large volcano eruption? I dont have any coherent answers to these questions, just a bunch of questions that roll around in my mind.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-ch ... tes-study/
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/clim ... hange.html
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A man has got to know his limitations.-Dr. Jonathan Hemlock or Harry Callahan or something F' it: http://youtu.be/lpzqQst-Sg8

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montanahiker
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by montanahiker » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:24 am

I always chuckle when someone posts climate doom right after it snows. :)

The larger trend isn't encouraging but I don't think that means we'll never have good snow years again. The last two years were average/great (see your chart). How does 2019 compare to 1970s-1990s? It seems like if we can successfully predict anything it's that there will be much more variability within and between years than there was in the 20th century. Ski mountaineering, and skiing in general, will take more planning than in the past but it's not going away anytime soon.

Love the second quote in your signature by the way. Unfortunately I skied a lot more groomers than normal this year.
"Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion. From their lofty summits I view my past, dream of the future and, with an unusual acuity, am allowed to experience the present moment. On each journey I am reborn." - Anatoli Boukreev
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SchralpTheGnar
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by SchralpTheGnar » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:28 am

2019 was pretty sick and not that long ago, but generally speaking I think the lines will still be reasonable for a while just that more of the peak skiing will be April rather than may, and the window shorter, like 4 good weeks of spring snow instead of 8.

As for winter I’m waiting for the winters to continue to get warmer before I start chasing snowflakes.
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by jmanner » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:48 am

SchralpTheGnar wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:28 am
2019 was pretty sick and not that long ago, but generally speaking I think the lines will still be reasonable for a while just that more of the peak skiing will be April rather than may, and the window shorter, like 4 good weeks of spring snow instead of 8.

As for winter I’m waiting for the winters to continue to get warmer before I start chasing snowflakes.
I think that’s a good assessment.

To both of you guys points, I’m not saying “SNOW IS GONE” it’s literally what I said, shorter seasons, worse snow. And if you spend any time looking at the SNOTEL data you’ll see the increase drop in the snow depth every year vs average in the last few seasons. Obviously 2019 and 2011 were lovely years, but that’s twice in 15 years. I get he impression that those kinds of years were far more common prior to ~2000.
A man has got to know his limitations.-Dr. Jonathan Hemlock or Harry Callahan or something F' it: http://youtu.be/lpzqQst-Sg8

'Life is too short to ski groomers'

"That man's only desire was to stand, once only, on the summit of that glorious wedge of rock...I think anyone who loves the mountains as much as that can claim to be a mountaineer, too."-Hermann Buhl, Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage
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montanahiker
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by montanahiker » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:05 am

jmanner wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:48 am
SchralpTheGnar wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:28 am
2019 was pretty sick and not that long ago, but generally speaking I think the lines will still be reasonable for a while just that more of the peak skiing will be April rather than may, and the window shorter, like 4 good weeks of spring snow instead of 8.

As for winter I’m waiting for the winters to continue to get warmer before I start chasing snowflakes.
I think that’s a good assessment.

To both of you guys points, I’m not saying “SNOW IS GONE” it’s literally what I said, shorter seasons, worse snow. And if you spend any time looking at the SNOTEL data you’ll see the increase drop in the snow depth every year vs average in the last few seasons. Obviously 2019 and 2011 were lovely years, but that’s twice in 15 years. I get he impression that those kinds of years were far more common prior to ~2000.
2020 was a good example of this. It was an average to above average year until April and then other than a bump in the second half of the month things just fell apart.

It would be interesting to see the changes in the median line over time (1980,1990, 2000, 2010, 2020). I wonder if the state has kept that historical data that they could publish in the same kind of chart. Is the peak getting shorter, is the post-peak drop off accelerating?
"Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion. From their lofty summits I view my past, dream of the future and, with an unusual acuity, am allowed to experience the present moment. On each journey I am reborn." - Anatoli Boukreev
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cottonmountaineering
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by cottonmountaineering » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:06 am

anecdotally the monsoon seems to be going away
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Scott P » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:10 am

montanahiker wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:05 am
It would be interesting to see the changes in the median line over time (1980,1990, 2000, 2010, 2020). I wonder if the state has kept that historical data that they could publish in the same kind of chart. Is the peak getting shorter, is the post-peak drop off accelerating?
You can do it with individual weather stations and overall snowfall is decreasing. It is doing so even more so west of here.
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Scott P » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:14 am

montanahiker wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:24 am
The last two years were average/great (see your chart)
Compared to the latest 30 year average at least, but the latest 30 year average has gone way down.

On average, it has had about a 41% decrease in the past few decades:

https://www.postindependent.com/news/lo ... -30-years/
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jmanner
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by jmanner » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:15 am

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/wc ... 6&zoom=7.0

All that data and more can be found here, but you’ll have to retrieve it yourself. If you’ve got a couple hours, days or weeks you can spend it in deep dives of the data.
A man has got to know his limitations.-Dr. Jonathan Hemlock or Harry Callahan or something F' it: http://youtu.be/lpzqQst-Sg8

'Life is too short to ski groomers'

"That man's only desire was to stand, once only, on the summit of that glorious wedge of rock...I think anyone who loves the mountains as much as that can claim to be a mountaineer, too."-Hermann Buhl, Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Dave B » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:28 am

montanahiker wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:05 am
Is the peak getting shorter, is the post-peak drop off accelerating?
The rate of snowmelt is super important for generating streamflow and forest productivity, but it's not really accelerating. Snow melt is ocuring earlier, but it's slower because days are shorter and radiative load on the snowpack is less.

Interesting paper from a colleague on how snow melt rate affects streamflow across western US. Another on the effects of snowmelt rate and timing on forest carbon updake.
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peter303
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by peter303 » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:32 am

In May NOAA redefines the "30 year normal" to include the warmer 2010s decade and drop the 1980s numbers. Warm days and years will then appear less abnormal.

https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/Upcoming ... te-Normals
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Re: The New Spring Normal?

Post by Alpinefroggy » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:42 am

cottonmountaineering wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:06 am
anecdotally the monsoon seems to be going away
On average the monsoon season and snow seasons are getting weaker/shorter. The state is becoming more and more dry. Certain forests are already in climatically extinct regions for them as well (Meaning that under a climate similar to today's in those regions, the forest wouldn't have ever grown in the way it has). Lots of stuff has already changed in Colorado. People just generally haven't paid much attention until fires torched areas in the areas west of the northern Front Range this year.
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