Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Snow Equals Drought in AB 32 Speak

California's AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was passed to prevent several dire consequences of global warming due to greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere. The legislature delegated authority to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to write specific regulations to curb greenhouse gases - especially CO2 - by 2020. It is interesting, though, how the dire consequences are not working out.

To wit: "The potential adverse impacts of global warming include. . . a reduction in the quality and supply of water to the state from the Sierra snowpack. . ."
(California Health and Safety Code Section 38501(a); where AB 32 is codified in the state laws)

Yet, there is this pronouncement dated January 29, 2010, from the State Department of Water Resources: "water content in California’s mountain snowpack is 115 percent of normal for the date statewide. This time last year, snow water content was 61 percent of normal statewide."

Since January 29, the snows have been falling heavily and regularly in the Sierras, and are falling again as I write this, as shown in the chart below (see Figure 1):

UPDATE 1: February 24, 2010 - [still more snow storms are on the way to the Sierras, with 1 to 3 feet expected to fall this weekend. - RES]

Figure 1
Weather Conditions in USA for Feb 23, 2010
(click image for larger view)

I'm terribly confused...the California government told us all that more CO2 in the atmosphere will create a shortage of snow and therefore less water available for the state. That was one of the key reasons AB 32 was passed. Well, we know the CO2 has continued to increase.

Somehow, though, the snow-making mechanism in Nature did not get the memo. Snow continues to fall, over and over again, and heavily, in the Sierras. Meanwhile, even the rain is getting into the lakes, as Lake Shasta, the largest reservoir in the state, is now at 97 percent of its average capacity for today's date. When the snow begins to melt, that water will also flow into Lake Shasta, and other lakes in the state. Lake Shasta will soon be far above 100 percent of its average capacity. How can this be, during a drought? Isn't the definition of a drought a shortage of water? Where is all this snow and rain coming from? (Answer: it is a natural phenomenon, likely due to the El Nino sitting just offshore in the Pacific Ocean. California tends to get more rain and snow during El Nino years, and less during La Nina years). These have absolutely nothing to do with the level of CO2 or any other greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

California's water-keepers are about to be faced with a big decision: when to start letting the water out of the reservoirs, to run down the rivers into the ocean - unused by the farmers or cities - just to make room for all the snowmelt they are about to receive. (see this link for current status of California's lakes - organized by river system).

Another point about the Department of Water's announcement: how can there be almost double the amount of snow this year compared to last year (115 percent of normal, compared to 61 percent of normal last year)? Their answer, of course, is that one wet year does not break a drought. Doesn't it? How else does a drought break? By having dust fall out of the sky, perhaps? I was led to believe that more rain and snow equals no drought.

Another claim by the legislature that passed AB 32 is that the Sierra snowpack is melting earlier and earlier each Spring. That is something we will have to wait on and see. For those who want to follow along on such things, the state's temperatures and rainfall may be seen here.

In conclusion, yet another bust for the AB 32 dire predictions. The snow pack is above normal, and getting deeper and deeper with each additional snowstorm. Temperatures are not running away, either. Sea levels are not rising up and inundating the shores, either. Massive, record-breaking heat waves are not occurring, either. Is there anything at all that AB 32's proponents have correct? Answer: nope. Correction: yes, one thing. Utility prices are indeed rising, but by more than was predicted.

Vote to suspend AB 32 in the November election. This is a law that California never needed, and certainly does not need now. We need jobs, not business-closing regulation.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey


David said...

It' s-no-w onder people are losing faith in the "science" when the policymakers can't decide whether more CO2 means less or more snow. They can't use the excuse that the predictions called for more flooding in some areas, more drought in others.

This statement was about a specific area; they got it wrong and need to face up to their own uncertainty.

Lisa LM said...

The projections for reduced snowpack are long term. Models show a reduction of 25% to 40% by 2050. Above average snowfall in January and February 2010 does not invalidate the projections.

Roger Sowell said...

Lisa LM: I guess you misunderstand. The models (by which I presume you refer to the two dozen or so General Circulation Models that do not agree with each other) are notoriously inaccurate and hopelessly biased to show a warming due to CO2. They cannot back-predict the past, let alone accurately predict the future.

Settled science does not require multiple models. Science in chaos does. Or pure guesswork.

Even if one did believe (and it takes a lot of blind faith to hold such a belief) that the oceans will grow warmer due to atmospheric CO2, the warmer oceans would produce more frequent and more severe El Ninos and milder or less frequent La Ninas. That will increase the rain and snow in the US Southwest, especially California and the snowpack in the Sierras. -- RES