July 02, 2009
Snowfall Records At Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier gets a lot of snow every winter.  In fact, for many years it had the world record for snow in a single year.  (It lost the record in 1999 to another Cascade volcano, Mt. Baker.)

To keep the winter months together, Mt. Rainier totals the snowfall beginning July 1 and ending June 30 of the next year, so last Tuesday was the end of a snow year, making this week a good time to plot the yearly snowfall since the winter of 1920-1921.

Mt. Rainier total snowfalls, 1920-2009

(There are two gaps in the snowfall records.  According to the national park, the road to Paradise was closed during World War II.   And for six years beginning in 1948, the park says, somewhat mysteriously, that the records are "not available".

The data in the plot, from 1920 through 2007, comes from a file available at the park site.  For the last two years, I used data from the automated phone message at the park.  (There was 947 inches of snow, total, in 2007-2008, and 711 inches in 2008-2009.)   Four of the yearly snowfall records are given with decimal fractions, including an improbable 410.02.   I rounded those four to the nearest integers.)

I'll have more to say about this snowfall data in the future — though not necessarily what you might expect — but I thought you might be interested in seeing the data, now that I have done enough work to make a basic plot.

Oh, all right, I'll make one remark.  What still surprises me, though I have seen this data many times, is how "noisy" it is, how much it jumps up and down from year to year.  As any statistician can tell you, that makes it harder to draw inferences from the data.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

(You can see some pictures of the snow at Rainier, taken in March, 2008, here.)

Posted by Jim Miller at July 02, 2009 05:05 PM | Email This
1. Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.

Posted by: Rilly on July 2, 2009 05:29 PM
2. And this is important... why? You're plotting precipitation at one location, and not snowmelt or snowpack.

Posted by: demo kid on July 2, 2009 08:00 PM
3. Not to mention that we're headed for an intense drought! If you're going to include precipitation at one point over the past year, might as well include the recent historically low level of precipitation across the region...


(And with that, I'm off for some long weekend shenanigans! I look forward to how you follow this up...)

Posted by: demo kid on July 2, 2009 08:35 PM
4. When I post just data, I usually do so for two reasons: First, because I find the data interesting in itself, and second because I want readers to think about the data, without my help.

And I think many of you can ask, and answer, your own questions, once you see the data.

For instance, what trend do you see in that graph?
That isn't a great question, for reasons I'll explain eventually, but it is a good place to start.

Posted by: Jim Miller on July 2, 2009 08:43 PM
5. It looks like a gradual increase, over decades, of the average snow pack, obviously caused by global warming.

Posted by: JoeBandMember on July 2, 2009 09:25 PM
6. ah, 'snowfall'... but what about the receding cascade glaciers and melt out dates creeping up earlier and earlier each year?

Posted by: mike on July 3, 2009 12:24 AM
7. demo kid;

So? Your party has become the fear monger party. BFD man. So it hasn't rained as much as usual. Time to freak out and call it a drought? You guys always use extreme terminology when you refer to things. Settle down DK, everything will be alright. Maybe next year you'll have the normal gray Seattle days that make you feel more at home.

Posted by: REBEL on July 3, 2009 07:07 AM
8. This from a dated (2004) narrative about glacier fluctuations on Mt. Rainier.

"Retreat of the Little Ice Age glaciers was slow until about 1920 when retreat became more rapid. Between the height of the Little Ice Age and 1950, Mount Rainier's glaciers lost about one-quarter of their length. Beginning in 1950 and continuing through the early 1980's, however, many of the major glaciers advanced in response to relatively cooler temperatures of the mid-century. The Carbon, Cowlitz, Emmons, and Nisqually Glaciers advanced during the late 1970's and early 1980's as a result of high snowfalls during the 1960's and 1970's. Since the early-1980's and through 1992, however, many glaciers have been thinning and retreating and some advances have slowed, perhaps in response to drier conditions that have prevailed at Mount Rainier since 1977."


Posted by: BA on July 3, 2009 07:56 AM
9. @5: Snowfall isn't snowpack.

@7: Actually, it IS time to be cautious. If we think there's a drought coming up, it's not as if we're going to suddenly be living a real-life version of Mad Max... but preparations for taking care of it ARE important.

But then again, typical conservative thinking is that if you just put your fingers in your ears and hum loudly, your problems will go away. Or that the free market will save you. Or something.

Posted by: demo kid on July 3, 2009 08:48 AM
10. So how much CO2 reduction is required to "stop climate change"? Can any of the marxists supporting cap-and-trade provide that number?

If you're going to "solve" a problem, you better know what the solution is. So what is the solution - how much CO2 needs to be pulled out of daily "production" to stop climate change?

And no, "HOPE AND CHANGE!" is not an answer...

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on July 3, 2009 08:59 AM
11. Save the world, DK!
Personally stop emitting CO2.

The sooner, the better.

Posted by: jimg on July 3, 2009 09:36 AM
12. that wingnuts think we shouldn't try and leave the world a better place than we found it always confounds me...

Posted by: mike on July 3, 2009 09:51 AM
13. I always enjoy how topics such as this cause the leftists to flip out.

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on July 3, 2009 10:24 AM
14. "12. that wingnuts think we shouldn't try and leave the world a better place than we found it always confounds me"

I see why are confounded, Mike. All you have in your head is that these "wignuts" don't want to save the planet. It is nice for the environment to be cleaner, etc., but I for one don't think crippling the economy due to a small chance that CO2 has some slight (as of yet, unknown) effect on the climate, which we could reduce by a tenth of a degree C in 20 years, while other countries laugh at us and continue about their business.

The world is not gonna be a better place, mike, if your kids can't make a living and pay their bills. Well, that is at least not this part of the world. Asia will be the place to be, as the Orientals are perhaps smarter than 1/2 of our population (yes, you are in that half, mike), and they don't fall head-over-heels for stupid hoaxes.
They've got real environmental problems over there in China, and they know it. However, they don't have the time and stupidity to get into this "climate change" crap.

Maybe I just don't understand you, and you think the stone age world or the George Orwell described world is a better place, I dunno.

Posted by: Dave Lincoln on July 3, 2009 10:38 AM
15. "...but what about the receding cascade glaciers and melt out dates creeping up earlier and earlier each year?" What about it? I just flew over the top of it 1 week back. There's lot of snowpack up in the N. Cascades (I mean down to the Snoqualmie pass).

What do you even know about it?

"9. @5: Snowfall isn't snowpack. " No, it isn't. The integral of snowfall gives you snowpack (unless you have a whole lot of days of above freezing weather at those altitudes causing melting - not likely until May/June, or loads and loads of sunshine causing sublimation - yes, lots of sunshine around here in the winter - have you noticed that too?) Frickin' idiots, the lot of ya.

Posted by: Dave Lincoln on July 3, 2009 10:49 AM
16. BA - Thanks for that information. The third edition of Harris's "Fire Mountains of the West" has more detail, but Harris is less systematic than one would like in describing the advances and retreats of the Rainier glaciers.

Fire Mountains is fine book, by the way, one I would recommend to anyone with an interest in our Cascade volcanoes.

Posted by: Jim Miller on July 3, 2009 10:55 AM
17. "But then again, typical conservative thinking is that if you just put your fingers in your ears and hum loudly, your problems will go away. Or that the free market will save you. Or something."

Wow, you really believe that don't you?

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on July 3, 2009 11:02 AM
18. dave,

what's a 'wignut'?

'It is nice for the environment to be cleaner' it's not nice, it is imperative for life to even exist. maybe this is the problem with conservatives - the selfishness instead of selflessness causes them to see everything from such a limited and flase worldview.

also, please tell me how doing everything we can to leave the earth better than we found it is a 'stupid hoax'? frankly, i kinda care that our water is potable and the air is breathable. i guess that doesn't matter to you. i take it you don't have children?

and your (lack of) knowledge about china is hilarious. they are investing billions, even in a recession, to make china a green superpower. yes, they still produce a lot of coal, but at least they're smart enough to start changing now, unlike over here. and you fancy yourself the smart one? interesting...

Posted by: mike on July 3, 2009 11:33 AM
19. @15: The integral of a yearly curve provides the cumulative depth of the snowpack at any given point, NOT the total volume of snowpack, or how quickly it melts, or the water content. Climatology FAIL.

There are several trends that HAVE been observed, that are much more relevant:

* The water content of snow has declined over the past 50 years.

* The largest declines in snowpack (expressed in water equivalent measures) are at the lowest elevations.

* Changes in temperature have shifted peak runoff from snowmelt earlier in the year.

* Natural climate variability (ENSO, PDO) can't explain all of these trends.

Drawing one graph and drawing conclusions from it is great, but doesn't address these other observations (and potential issues).

@17: It is what you're doing, isn't it?

Alright... now I'm off to enjoy the sunshine, global warming or not. :)

Posted by: demo kid on July 3, 2009 11:44 AM
20. Mikey, sorry for my bad spelling. You are correct that the word is "wingnut", not "wignut". I bow down to your spelling prowess. I am not worthy.

Now, I am worthy to tell you what an uneducated fool you are. Here goes:

"i kinda care that our water is potable and the air is breathable." The water is potable now!! I just drank some (people may not believe this, but I've never bought a bottle of water in my life - in the US that is). The air is plenty clean. Have you not been outside today? Get outside prontomundo; the summer's only good till mid-September around here, as you ought to know if you live in the area.

Here's where your statement shows your ignorance, Mike: Carbon Dioxide is a natural component of the atmosphere, albeit a small part. Did you not know that? How did you get through chemistry, or even 7th grade science, man? CO2 and Water are the 2 PRODUCTS of combustion, which non-chemistry people call burning. There can be by-products, some of them that are indeed bad to breath and some that are not. CO2 is a PRODUCT not a BY-PRODUCT of every single combustion process there is.

Carbon Dioxide is not a "pollutant" in any sense of the word. It is not bad to breath. It may have some small effect on the climate when the amount in the atmosphere goes significantly higher, but scientists can not now completely mathematically model the entire climate. They write papers to show what they are working on - mostly for other scientists, but journalists cannot read said papers. Most of the journalists may have a science background comparable to yours, Mike, which is zilch, zero, nunca, squat, apparently.

So, journalists spout off crap from the worst-case scenarios of computer models that are still works-in-progress and don't include any NATURAL EFFECTS (why? because the causes of all these factors are not all known yet; I can't blame the scientists. These things take time and major breakthroughs. It ain't easy at all). Then, because they lean left-wing and would like to see our economy go straight to hell, they support these things by echoing the words "emission" and "pollution" when they write about CO2. Some journalists don't have a particular bone to pick, I grant you, but they are still lacking in any science background and will pick up on anything sensational (that sells news).

In the words of AC-DC:

"C-O-two is not pollution"
(Sung to the same tune as "Rock-n-Roll ain't noise pollution".)

Posted by: Dave Lincoln on July 3, 2009 12:35 PM
21. oops probably a bit confusing here:

"Then, because they lean left-wing ..." refers to journalists, not scientists.

Posted by: Dave Lincoln on July 3, 2009 12:38 PM
22. according to the heritage foundation, china has been a superpower for a few years.

all i said was china was trying to become a green superpower. comprehension a little hard these days?

china is the largest consumer of wind turbines. state owned power cos. are competeing to build large solar plants. farm waste generation to electricity is on the rise.

china is building wind farms w/ the power to generate as much power as 16 coal plants. they are predicted to spend more on renewable energy in the next 10 years than on coal fired plants. china will reach it's 2020 goal for wind power this year, and are slowing rate of coal fired plants.


Posted by: mike on July 3, 2009 12:41 PM
23. OK, let me respond to one wignut at a time:

/Liberalism covered it well, but I will add: The Chinese environment is pretty bad off from centuries of fairly high population density (in the eastern 1/3 of the land, I would say). Back when America had 100 million people, less than 100 years back, China had more than 1/2 a billion already.

So, they just don't have many big forests, the rivers are polluted and the Yellow River, Huang He, in the north doesn't make it to the ocean a lot, the water is not potable, OK mikey. Go ahead and drink it if you ever visit China, and report back to us from you wireless netbook while you are sitting on the John. haha. I mean the natives don't drink the water without boiling it - luckily they lot hot drinks in general anyway.

BTW, I don't notice a lot of big supposed environmentalists decrying are large immigration rate and how it affects America's environment. I guess it's just not PC.

Well, the Chinese don't go for the PC crap, even though they (really Chairman Mao and his fellow murderers) made up the term. Right now, they know what's important over there - the number one thing is a good economy. They are very much behind us in their environmental quality of life, as I wrote about above. The last thing these guys want to do is to dick up a part of their economy - the energy sector - by fighting the "climate change" boogie man (sometimes called the "boogety man (not a spelling error, Mike, so lay off!) )

Posted by: Dave Lincoln on July 3, 2009 12:47 PM
24. "The integral of a yearly curve provides the cumulative depth of the snowpack at any given point, NOT the total volume of snowpack, or how quickly it melts, or the water content."

Uhh, yeah, we don't, like know the snowfall rate in every, like, spot. So, that's why measurements are taken only at selected, representative locations, called, like, weather stations.

The volume is proportional to depth if the rate is consistent. Of course it is not consistent, but without assumptions we would have no data to use. Do you know when they say Seattle go .6 in. of rain today, that doesn't mean you got .6 in. of rain at your house? They can't have reporting from every house, as people like you are too stupid to make repeatable, accurate observations.

Dude, if you were a scientist or engineer you might have understood me. I said the melt during winter-spring SUBTRACTS from the snowpack, as does any sublimation (which cannot be a big factor in W. Washington in the winter - I'd bet you on that).

So, yes, snowpack growth is proportional to yearly snowfall, but only after subtracting out the losses on the exceptionally warm days (remember the elevations are 4,000 ft and up, so Temps average 15 F lower up there than sea level T's) or sunshine periods. There is also, of course the mass of frozen water that was there at the beginning of the precipitation year, be it glacier or remaining snowpack.

Now, if the area of the snowpack stays constant (it doesn't), then snowpack depth would be also proportional in the same way. Measurement or estimation of the snowpack mass involves knowing depths over different areas. It's not that easy. I you just take the area of snowpack, say from an aerial or satellite photo, that doesn't give you the mass.


(no charge, but I can't do this all day)

Posted by: Dave Lincoln on July 3, 2009 12:58 PM
25. "China's response GO F*** yourself." More power to them.

Hey, hey!! at least some people in the world have got balls.

You don't see it a lot here in regards to politicians. I guess they get neutered right after the bogus "Oath to defend the Constitution" ceremony.

Posted by: Dave Lincoln on July 3, 2009 01:01 PM
26. I am finally absolutely sure. This graph is conclusive proof that I want to hit Al Gore with a shovel.

Posted by: jvon on July 3, 2009 03:55 PM
27. dave,

did you even finish high school?

immigration is causing pollution? wtf are you on? maybe if immigration caused 1/10000 of the pollution caused by corporations, that would be funny. you're just xenophobic, and it's pathetic. but not a surprise.

PC or not, at least china can see that what they are doing has an affect on the environment. that's why they are making changes. why is that notion such a difficult concept for wingnuts?

btw, like china, europe and the united states don't have many large forests left, either. and no, a lot of our water is not potable due to runoff, pollution, etc. without being treated. we have it pretty good for the most part in the NW (for now)

Posted by: mike on July 3, 2009 04:02 PM
28. 'dropped the boyscout' - what is this a reference too?

yes, cuba DOES have a better healthCARE system, because we don't have a healthcare system. otherwise we wouldn't have 50 million uninsured, and almost as many under-insured. yes we have a micro-system that covers (somewhat) the elderly, military and government. but oooh, we should cut that back, because crazy socialism is baaad!

liberalism - you should know that the boyscouts is full of gay kids. all the gay people i've met in life used scouting as a way to hook up with other boys when they were kids. funny, it's the gay scoutleaders you homophobes are so scared of!

also, there is nothing wrong with being a liberal. or a communist. or a socialist. and i guess even a wingnut conservative, though it must be hard with all your leaders dropping like flies.

in fact, this social democrat is going to drive down to the grocery store (ohnoz! communist-funded roads!) get some grub and get ready to celebrate the fourth with his proudly-serving, social democratic active duty friends and vets.

lastly, the article you copied was 1.18 million pounds (NOT 1.8 million), which is less than 600 tons. that's about as much trash collected along the texas interstates last year. your math skills, like your understanding of history and politics, is an EPIC FAIL! wow.

Posted by: mike on July 3, 2009 04:57 PM
29. "immigration is causing pollution? wtf are you on? maybe if immigration caused 1/10000 of the pollution caused by corporations, that would be funny"

haha, at least in my few years of high skool (sic) I learned to read an entire paragraph in one sitting without feeling the need to spew rubbish before I was done.

Here ya go again: "BTW, I don't notice a lot of big supposed environmentalists decrying our large immigration rate and how it affects America's environment. I guess it's just not PC" Every environmental problem that exists that is caused by man will be exacerebated (do you know that word? If so, fix my spelling; I know I missed it) by a larger quantity of people causing this man-made problem by definition. More immigration = more Americans (or at least people who live here). More people = more problems. It's not hard to see this for most of us. You are just special I guess (No, not in a good way).

Oh, by the way, corporations are people doing work for a common business goal. You make it out like they are some separate evil entities.

"PC or not, at least china can see that what they are doing has an affect on the environment. that's why they are making changes.

Exactly, they build a coal plant each week or 2 and they know where the smog is coming from. However, they need the energy for manufacturing right now, more than anything, and people in the south really would like to be able to use air conditioning when it is 95 F and 90% R.H. outside. Can you blame them?

They just don't fall for the BS claims of the entire world climate changing do to man. Like I said, they are not as stupid as a certain blue-colored 1/2 of Americans. You can see a lot of common sense over in China, and no indication of "zero-tolerance", meaning self-imposed stupidity. Oh, and by the way, not many lawyers live there. The infestation that we have here has not made it over there like the Mexican Flu has. Good for them. This is why they are ready to kick our ass economically.

Posted by: Dave Lincoln on July 3, 2009 05:34 PM
30. Dear Mr. Lincoln:

you must be very concerned. "Socialism, that is a different story. It makes you want to make sure you die before you experience too much of the socialist life style. It gets especially bad when the socialists in charge run out of money off the backs of the real working people. They get all pissy then, and start lining people up to shoot."

You mean like how in England and France and Germany and Sweden and Japan and Australia and NZ and ICeland they've been lining up conservatives and shooting htem? And putting the rest into gulags and reeducation cmaps?

Who do you think is doing that, the curent president of France? that socialist?

Mr. Lincoln, you seem to equate many social programs with communism and a total loss of liberty. You feel very strongly about this I see. I want to point out to you taht (a) Obama who you call a marxist racist has won, (b) e's implementing his programs, and (c) people like me are going to support this, and (d) the democrats have a majority in congress.

So my question to you is: if you feel so strongly that changes to our health care system amount to communist dictatorship, when are you going to get off your backside, grow a paid and take some more direct action?

Or are you just going to post a lot on a web site?

Somehow, what you're saying isn't lining up with what you're (not) doing.

Are you all talk and no action?

I encourage you btw to simply organize and try to win back power at the ballot box. You do accept that that's the only legal and moral way for you to pursue your goals and support your principles -- don't you?

Or, if you think Obama is a big marxist racist, what else are you prepared to do?

Posted by: Torture Lawyer on July 3, 2009 07:01 PM