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By Bob Valen 

Autumn's end brings cold

Weather Watcher

 


A recent discussion addressing earth’s Ice Age periods, the glaciation and the retreating of glaciers, brought the subject of climate change to the front. Earth scientists and geologists tell us there have been five known ice ages on earth. The last ice age ended about 12,000 years ago. Our region of Planet Earth, the Grand Coulee, was greatly affected by the last ice age.

Those glacial and interglacial periods have come and gone and are, in fact, episodes of climate change. Earth’s geologic record holds the evidence of those climate change periods. There were periods of greater warmth with limited polar ice, and, as mentioned, colder intervals with more widespread glaciation.

The key difference between those past episodes of climate change and what scientists are addressing today is called “anthropogenic;” that is, resulting from the influence of human beings on nature. Climate can change through natural occurrences or by anthropogenic causes.

That is the pivotal point in the discussion of past climate change and what scientists are addressing today. We are learning what the whole of humanity’s influential impact (anthropogenic) is on our planet’s atmosphere. This ongoing impact is measureable, and it’s the first time in human history that those measurements are being taken, studied and results shared. Is what we are witnessing climatically a natural occurrence only, a combination of natural and anthropogenic occurrence, or is it totally anthropogenic?

If you have an interest in reading further information on the topic, The Geological Society of America has prepared a position paper that I found to be clear.

Here’s the link: http://www.geosociety.org/positions/position10.htm

OK, time to move this column from a discussion about our planet’s climate to our local weather.

The temperatures dropped nicely toward the end of November, as did the snow. Yes, the first snowfall of this winter arrived mostly overnight on the 24th. We measured 1.8 inches here at the home weather station. Have to admit, I was pleased to see the snow. Precipitation for the month, was 0.95 inches, which included 0.17 inches of snow water equivalent from that snowfall. We were still behind for the month as the mean for November is 1.24 inches. The highest amount received was 3.95 inches back in 1973. Also, the mean snowfall for the month is 1.5 inches. Our low temperature was 13.5°F on Nov. 28, and our high was 60.9°F on the 13. We ended November with a mean of 36.6°F, just slightly less than the all-time mean of 37.5°F.

As of Dec. 1, snowpack across the state is below normal, according the state climatologist’s office, with one exception — the Olympic Basin, which was at 118 percent of normal Snow Water Equivalent (SWE). Also, the area to our north, The Upper Columbia, is at 83 percent of normal SWE.

The Washington state climatologist has provided this information from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC): “The December-January-February (DJF) CPC outlook is calling for higher-than-normal temperatures statewide, with the odds of warmer temperatures higher than what is in place for just the month of December. For precipitation, there are higher chances of below-normal precipitation for most of the state, with odds of below-normal precipitation highest for eastern Washington. The Olympic Peninsula and southwest Washington have equal chances of below, equal to, or above-normal precipitation.” We haven’t recovered from drought conditions. We’ll see what 2016 offers us weather-wise.

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