Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Chinook? or Not

The DiCaprio Chinook follies continue.  Before getting too deeply into this Eli would like to quote a comment by Aaron in the previous post

Leo got up in front of 30 million people and said something about climate change that 25 million people could understand.
That is better than 97% of scientists have done.
Convincing people to act on climate change is not about facts and figures, it is about winning hearts and souls. Winston Churchill did not convince Britons (and the US) to support the war, by reciting facts and figures. No! He stood up in front of people and said things they could understand. Winston Churchill knew the facts and figures, but his speeches were about blood, sweat, tears, and work.
We knew the score, and should have phased out carbon fuels by 1990. But, the industry tugged at heartstrings with words like "jobs" and "economy". Facts and figures say there are more jobs and a better economy with renewable energy, but they beat us on oratory, while we squabbled over details.
Which is what Eli was trying to point out.

Now on the scientific front, the first thing to point out is that the filming was done in the mountains to the west of Calgary, near Canmore, not in Calgary.  The nearest Canadian weather station to Canmore is Banff and Banff is really close as things go, 26 km on the road, maybe less than 20 if a bunny is taking the crow, something bunnies tend to avoid.

With that out of the way, let us look at the climate variable most closely associated with what the film makers wanted, snow on the ground (in cm damn it the is a scientifical blog, no ethical scientist uses feet or inches)

 FWIW 120 days is the end of April, the Chinook that hit Calgary came in Jan 25, and yes, bunnies can see the warmish weather from it, but then the snow on the ground in 2015 (red) remained low to zilch for the rest of the season.  That is a hell of a Chinook, maybe never was such a thing.

Well how about the temperature.  Eli can graph the average temperature

Gavin and Mike Mann for the win

also, of course Leonardo D!


Andy Knight said...

@amk_capes here, where there is more room for comment than the twitter limit. Not sure how I got characterized as arguing against global warming, when I wasn't. Anyway my points were
1) the winters in W Canada are clearly getting warmer, and global warming is a fact
2) The actual snow melt at the end of january 2015 (day 25 of your plot) was a Chinook event, 5 days of exceptionally warm weather, dry westerly winds (Foehn effect). This is a globally recognized weather phenomenon that is clear from the weather data, and has been happening for years. It was quickly followed by another chinook (around day 40). The snow melt coincided with chinooks, this is the weather that happened, has happened in the past and will continue to happen.
3) Some climate change deniers (not me) use the fact that there was as chinook as an argument that warming is not happening
4) Statements that "there wasn't a chinook" are factually incorrect and have been used by climate change deniers to argue that climate scientists don't know what they are talking about. The specific tweet that led me here "that was no chinook" is scientifically wrong and hurts credibility.
5) The useful links from Michael Mann to the study showing increasing frequency of chinooks with warming are what we should be focussing on; help with the argument that climate change is impacting the frequency and strength of chinooks.

In general, its king of sad that you characterize this as "Gavin and Mike for the win". Win as what - the people Michael Mann was arguing with are trying to raise awareness of the need for a detailed nuanced argument to win over oil patch sceptics. The guy who finally got a climate change plan in place for alberta was blocked as a troll. I guess that a lot of people working in climate change spend their life arguing against flat out deniers and get jaded. In this case the argument is against people who spend their time making the same argument but also understand the local microclimate.

The tweet of mine that you quote is meant to say that whatever way people twist the 2015 data to say it was 'just a chinook' (as opposed to the reality of a chinook followed by lack of snow and above average temperatures) their argument is blown away by this years temperature trends, which are consistently warm, Feb in Calgary was 6C warmer than last, on average over the whole month.

Lars said...

We actually had rain in Calgary last weekend, something that I have never seen here before (I've lived in Calgary since 1978). It turned to wet snow after half an hour or so, but still.

Andy S said...

As far as I know, the film sets were mostly in Kananaskis Country, in the Rocky Mountain Foothills and Front Ranges. These areas feel Chinooks much more strongly than Banff or Lake Louise. The most reliable ski hills are not in the Front Ranges for the very reason that they generally get less snow and get frequently clobbered by Chinooks. The area is littered with the remains of abandoned ski hills built by developers who thought they could defy nature.

Everybody who lives in Calgary knows this. About half the people who live in Calgary know that the climate is changing and is caused by humans. Please understand that they will be hearing, for the rest of their lives, from the other half about how Leo thinks Chinooks are the same thing as climate change. I feel their pain.

Andy Knight said...

it might seem like a small point to those living elsewhere, but its the main issue if you are arguing in Calgary. Nice to note that in the previous blog post the this is acknowledged "Yes, there was a chinook, but there was also less snow than usual."
Also, if you want to see the impact of chinook / snow more clearly than temp/snow , plot the snow cover and temp for Jan/Feb 2016 over the top of the 2014/15 data. You can see that feb this year is warmer but there is more snow, and its is slowly declining. The rapid snow melt of '15 coincides with the chinooks and their extreme temperatures

Oale said...

The relative heat from the Norrh Pacific as the blob dissipated would have a part in the tshinuuk.

vocetacita said...

(tl;dr First, none of the posters understand the first thing about Chinooks or the geography. Second, the overall trend experienced by locals, i.e. guides, hydrologists, wardens, glaciologists, has been warmer year round temperatures, with less overall precipitation, and when it does come it comes as rain)

What is missing from all this are observations from anyone who actually spends time in the Canadian Rocky mountain parks on a day to day basis, in particular since the mid 1980s:

0. We used to have a saying "Calgary, 8 months of winter, 4 months of bad skiing" this is no longer true. When I started in the mountains we could reliably start our ski season in late October skiing from the car on snow to places like the Robertson and the Rae glaciers. While freak snow storms can roll in at any time (e.g. September 2014) and deposit amounts on those glaciers sufficient for skiing, it is gone in a day and does not feature the sustained coverage we used to have. Truly reliable skiing with sufficient coverage doesn't start until late December and ends in early April. As well our late season snow pack is non-existent, despite the heroic efforts of the likes of Tevor Sexsmith to ski year round in truly frightening couloirs. The Sunshine ski resort used to have spring skiing every year until at least May 25, again those days are long gone.

1. In retrospect the first canary in the mine was the incredible advance of the mountain pine beetle some 20 years ago and the ensuing devastation of the pine stocks from the Columbia trench in Montana all the way up to the Yukon border (controlled burns anyone?). This was the first indication of the weakening of the "hard" winters we used to have.

2. Neither the frequency nor strength of the Chinooks has changed appreciably, however the baseline has shifted dramatically towards warmer winters and summers. If anything the Chinooks seem to have tapered off a bit with the weakening of the jet stream (but that is just based on the number of headaches my wife gets each winter ;o)

3. Deep valley bottoms (~600m) like the Slocan, Kootneys, and Arrow Lakes are snow free year round now. Even as late as the 1980s one used to be able to cross country ski and snow mobile along the lake shore on the abandoned rail lines. Now you can nearly garden year round in Nelson.

4. The stories of interior BC ski hills having to dig out the ski lifts are not apocryphal, it really did used to happen. To the younger generations this is little more than a myth. If you don't believe me try Googling "BC river forecast snow pillow study plots" and download the time series. Now when we get an average year of snow fall that is considered a "fat" snow pack, more often than not snow seasons are way below normal.

5. Mid-winter "freak" rain events to mountain top (+3000m) in the Rockies and Interior ranges now occur at least once a season, increasingly defying the label "freak" and trending towards the "new normal".

6. Rain in valley bottoms (up to +1800m) throughout the Rockies is now common throughout the winter, and a plot of the amount of precipitation falling as rain is seriously missing from all the self congratulating bloviating in the post. As well freezing levels also routinely reach up to +1800m in the winter.

7. Down slope Northern cold fronts are now a rarity, when they used to occur at least twice a month in the winter season. These storms would bring cold (-30C) Bering Straights moisture down from Alaska and deposit it as incredible dry powder along the Interior Ranges, Front Ranges, and Calgary. This is primarily due to a weakening and meandering jet stream. Now most of our interior range moisture comes from mid and tropical Pacific storms tracking over Vancouver, while front range moisture tends to come from up slope storms tracking up from the US prairies.

foreshortenedperspective said...

8. The jet stream used to park visibly over Calgary and the Bow Valley corridor, indicated by a stream of high altitude clouds, with an undulating pattern that looked like a river in the air flowing straight from west to east. I have not seen this in a decade. As well long lasting high pressure cells have now become ordinary; in the 1980s they were exceptional enough to make the nightly news when they did occur, being given the moniker "omega blocks", because of the pattern of the jet stream looping North through the Yukon and back down through Manitoba.

9. Not only has the number of cloud free days increased, but also the effect of the sun has gotten much more potent particularly on south faces and valley bottoms. This is evidenced by the clean "prune" lines of snow free trees, often to +2000m, where the sun has melted all the snow off of the tree tops. This is even seen in places as far west as Louise Pass; which is generally the coldest part of the Bow Valley Corridor.

10. Many of the classic valley bottom ice climbs from Jojo's book are now unclimbable, I don't think Cascade Falls, Canmore Junk Yards, or Groto Canyon as been in climbing shape for more than one or two days this year. These places used to be reliable trade routes for guides and instructors to take clients to teach ice climbing. Even the Weeping Wall on the Icefields parkway was nearly out shape by the end of February this year, this is usually climbable until mid-April.

11. Experiencing -20C in the winter has become something of an anomaly in Calgary, and even in the alpine in the mountain parks. It used to be Chinooks were a short lived break from a consistent steady cold of -20C (daytime high) with winter "bringing the pain" with lows in the mid -30C. Now a -20C day is considered a rare "bad" winter day.

12. The outdoor skating rinks in Calgary have already melted out this year, with sustained temperatures in the mid-teens in the middle of February. Notably the warm weather has been coming without Chinooks! It has simply been warm, full stop.

13. People are now route setting sport climbs year round on south faces in the Bow Valley corridor, and sometimes even climbing them. Really truly the Bow Valley used to be an ice climbing destination in the winter, but not any more.

14. Our glaciers have taken a double punch of less snow in the winter, and much hotter sunnier summers, resulting in a rapidly retreating firn line, loss summer neve, and a much greater exposure of blue ice, dirty rock ice, and seracs, as well as a general retreat of ice. For example Mt. Robson has lost nearly all of its fearsome and famous gargoyles from its summit ridge, Sky Ladder, Aemmer Couloir, and most of the 3/4 Couloir are now bare rock and scree in the summer, and Mt Fay's bulge has retreated dramatically uphill and become mostly a hanging serac. Classic approaches like the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col are now out of shape by the end of July due to a combination of rock fall and bare ice exposure, this used to be firm neve all summer and fall. Safe-ish winter ski tours on like the Wapta Icefields traverse are now a hazardous gauntlet of sagging crevasse bridges, open bergschrunds, and calving seracs, twenty years ago the bergschrunds and crevasses on the Wapta used to fill in enough to offer at least the illusion of protection from falling into a crevasse.

15. As the 2013 floods demonstrated our hydrological cycle has become a mess in the Rockies, and our water supply has become much more erratic.

foreshortenedperspective said...

Some notes on geography and local weather dynamics:

16. Chinooks do not behave in the way you seem to think they do. The main affect of Chinooks are felt in the Calgary-Lethbridge prairies and only as far west of Calgary as 1X turn-off just past the Stoney-Nakoda reserve, and as far west of Lethbridge as Coleman/Frank Slide area. Chinooks are typified by high westerly winds (+80km/h) and a rapid warming of a +20C rise in temperature in the space of a couple of hours, as well as high overcast skies to the east of the front ranges forming the characteristic Chinook arch, with a build up of moisture bearing clouds to the west of the continental divide, again clearly visible from Calgary during Chinooks. There is a reliable dry belt that forms between Scott Lake Hill and Mt. Yamnuska in the area impacted by Chinooks. Chinook warmth will directly reach into highway 40 as far the Galatea choke point before Fortress Junction, but not any further towards the divide, and certainly not to the Kananaskis and inter-lakes area. In particular Banff and Canmore never directly experience Chinook warming, at least not the kind felt on the prairies. Rather the consequences of Chinooks to the Bow Valley corridor and much of the Kananaskis is to bring clear skies and even more mild temperatures to an already mild valley bottom.

17. Mountain valley bottoms in the Rockies significantly buffer extreme weather in comparison to the prairies. In general the rankings for weather extremes Alpine>Prairies>Valleys. Banff and Canmore used to be the spots to find "mild" -10C weather when Calgary was solidly into -20C. Now Banff and Canmore will barely get to below 0C during the daytime in the winter.

18. Even though the Bow River valley bottom in down town Calgary is lower than the Banff town site much of Calgary is actually situated on a high arid plain at an elevation above the Banff town site. In fact Scott Lake Hill (~1440m) just west of Cochrane is the highest point on the TransCanada (remember the Cochahalla is not part of the TransCanada), as well the highest paved road in Canada is just to the South-West on Highway 40 through Highwood Pass.

19. The continental divide is quite close to the front ranges through Kananaskis country. If you hop one valley west from Highway 40 to the Smith-Dorien Trail you will be climbing peaks on the divide (Mt. Sir Douglas, French-Haig-Robertson traverse), and you will still find reliable, albeit dwindling snow coverage in the winter.

20. The only ski hills strongly affected by Chinooks are Nakiska home of the 1988 Olympics, and Castle Mountain on highway 3 west of Lethbridge, home of some seriously heavy drinking.

Finally observations:

21. It used to be you needed winter tires (studs or chains) or a good long run at it to get up the Barrier Lake Hill on Highway 40, now this section of road is dry pavement year round. People were even sport climbing at Barrier in mid-February this year, this is the same place that used to feature the now non-existent ice climb Amadeus.

22. Again used to be when Highwood pass was opened in the spring it would require ploughing 2m of snow off of the road. For the last decade cyclists have been able to enjoyably traverse Highwood pass in the week before the official opening in the spring.

23. The winter of W2014/15 was exceptionally dry and most skiers were done with it by March. This winter is holding out only because of a good early season snow fall, that really has not been followed up with any more major storms. We are still only barely scratching at the bottom of an average snow year curve.

24. Summers used to be a lot colder in Calgary, when there would always be one day of sleet/snow showers in August, now not so much.

25. Bonus material: the 1988 Olympics were nearly ruined by an ill timed Chinook that saw us wearing tee-shirts for the closing ceremonies; when just a few days before we stood with chattering teeth at night in -17C at the Olympic Plaza in down town Calgary for the awarding of ?Nancy Greene? the ?silver? medal in ?GS?.

EliRabett said...

Thanks to Andy S and foreshortened for the details. Eli;s point was and is that DiCaprio was jumped by the denialist press and there was little push back The science side should have emphasized the rising baseline rather than the Chinooks.

Andy S said...

I appreciate the detail provided by foreshortenedperspective. I skied, hiked and climbed out of Calgary almost every weekend from 1981 to 2005. I've been away on the west coast for the past ten years and I hadn't realized the extent of the change especially to the snow and ice cover. I climbed (and very nearly fell down) the Aemmer Couloir, which was entirely filled with snow and ice in late August in the mid eighties. I recall the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col was an easy plod up on snow and an enjoyable glissade down. I also recall frequently getting in some rock climbing days in early spring on S-facing crags like Barrier and Wasootch in the 80s and 90s.

One year in the late nineties, there was snow on the ground every month of year at my house near the top of the Big Hill near Cochrane. In that location we would often get blasted by snow-eating Chinooks, while the Bow Valley below would stay frozen in a temperature inversion.

I revisited The Alberta Rockies briefly in 2014 and wrote a piece on the retreat of the Athabasca Glacier.

It's hard to unscramble the anecdotes from the trends, although the glaciers tell a good story. I sympathize with poor Leo who had to come up with a pithy climate change one-liner relevant to the Revenant. As the authors of the recent Fyfe et al paper have discovered, even when scientists agonize over the wording, they still end up getting sandbagged by deniers like Lamar Smith for something they didn't say.

Hank Roberts said...

I gather we need far more planets to have a clearer idea what's happening?

Attribution of extreme weather and climate events overestimated by unreliable climate simulations

First published: 8 March 2016
DOI: 10.1002/2015GL067189


Event attribution aims to estimate the role of an external driver after the occurrence of an extreme weather and climate event by comparing the probability that the event occurs in two counterfactual worlds.

These probabilities are typically computed using ensembles of climate simulations whose simulated probabilities are known to be imperfect. The implications of using imperfect models in this context are largely unknown, limited by the number of observed extreme events in the past to conduct a robust evaluation.

Using an idealized framework, this model limitation is studied by generating large number of simulations with variable reliability in simulated probability. The framework illustrates that unreliable climate simulations are prone to overestimate the attributable risk to climate change.

Climate model ensembles tend to be overconfident in their representation of the climate variability which leads to systematic increase in the attributable risk to an extreme event. Our results suggest that event attribution approaches comprising of a single climate model would benefit from ensemble calibration in order to account for model inadequacies similarly as operational forecasting systems.
----end abstract----

sorry to inflict it on you, I'd have posted it in a relevant thread at Tamino's but couldn't find one open.


PS -- CRAP! the pre-checked "stay signed in" box always provided for the Google login? I uncheck it, I sign in, and -- today -- I see the damned box re-check itself before the page opens.

It's tentacles all the way down.