Top 5 failed ‘snow free’ and ‘ice free’ predictions

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

With the U.S. East Coast blanketed in snow once again, it’s hard to imagine that climate scientists and environmentalists predicted years ago that the “end of snow” was nigh and that the Arctic would soon be “ice-free.”

The U.S. East Coast got pounded by yet another winter storm on Monday that brought to temperatures to a 141-year record low in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. metro area. The rash of cold weather and snowstorms have put environmentalists and climate scientists on the defensive, as they explain that one exceptionally cold and snowy winter does not disprove global warming.

New York Times writer Peter Fox took to the editorial pages to pen an op-ed called the “End of Snow” which argued that global warming meant that there could be no more snowy areas to hold future Winter Olympic games.

But past predictions of “snow free” winters and even an “ice-free” Arctic have failed to materialize. Here are some past predictions that winter as we know it would become a thing of the past.

1.) Scientists predicted in 2000 that kids would grow up without snow. It was 14 years ago now when UK climate scientists argued that global warming would make snowfall a “a very rare and exciting event”.

“Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” Dr. David Viner, a scientist with the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia, told the UK Independent in 2000.

After the wettest winter in 248 years, the UK was hit with snowstorms last week. Last year, the UK’s climate authority predicted that this winter would be drier than usual, with only a 15 percent chance of being wet. They were very wrong.

2.) It’s been 10 years since scientists predicted the “end of skiing” in Scotland. An article from the UK’s Guardian in 2004 quoted scientists and environmentalists predicting the demise of Scotland’s winter sports industry, including more remarks from Dr. David Viner, who had already predicted the end of snow in Britain.

“Unfortunately, it’s just getting too hot for the Scottish ski industry,” said Dr. Viner. “It is very vulnerable to climate change; the resorts have always been marginal in terms of snow and, as the rate of climate change increases, it is hard to see a long-term future.”

“Adam Watson, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, believes the industry has no more than 20 years left,” the Guardian reported.

Viner and Watson must have been surprised to see the BBC report that Scottish mountains may be their snowiest since 1945.

3.) The Arctic would be “ice-free” by now. “Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during some of the summer months, could be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years,” Gore said in 2008.

Gore was echoing the predictions made by American scientist Wieslaw Maslowsk in 2007, who said that “you can argue that may be our projection of [an ice-free Arctic by 2013] is already too conservative.”

But in 2013, Arctic sea ice coverage was up 50 percent from 2012 levels. Data from Europe’s Cryosat spacecraft showed that Arctic sea ice coverage was nearly 2,100 cubic miles by the end of this year’s melting season, up from about 1,400 cubic miles during the same time last year.

4.) Environmentalists predicted the end of spring snowfall. In March 2013, the Union of Concerned Scientists predicted that warmer springs would mean declines in snow cover.

“Warmer, earlier springs are a clear signal of a changing climate,” the group said. “March temperatures have grown 2.1 degrees (F) hotter, on average, in the United States since reliable record-keeping began in 1880s. Similarly, the first leaves have started appearing on plants several days earlier than they used to across the country.”

But the record levels of snowfall to hit this year may have caught UCS off guard. On Monday, the U.S. east coast was hit with a massive snowstorm that stretched for 1,300 miles and those in the Baltimore-D.C. area were hit with a 141-year record cold of 4 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday morning.

“Many places tied or broke record lows all over the Eastern half of the U.S.,” reported CBS Baltimore.

5.) The end of skiing. Ski towns across the country were worried about their prospects when temperatures temporarily rose up into 50s and 60s in early February. Scientists were fanning the flames by predicting that winter towns could see more hardships ahead due to global warming.

“There’s going to be good years and there’s going to be god-awful years,” said Terry Root, senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “The globe is warming so rapidly, and variability is increasing so much – both of those things together, I’m glad I don’t have stock in ski areas.”

But this year has not been all that bad for winter towns. The town of Loveland, Colorado got more than 300 inches of snow this winter, reports CBS Denver, adding that with “snow continuing to pile up at ski areas many are putting this winter in their top 10.” For Loveland, 300 inches is still below normal, but a far cry from the end of snowy winters.

(H/T Steven Goddard)

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