Warming in the Northern Rockies?

Like me you probably have read the recent news articles about the rapidly warming northern Rockies and the rapidly diminishing snowpack like this one:


Overall, the average yearly snowpack across the northern Rockies directly known from snow records to have dropped 30% to 60% in the past 50 years has fallen more sharply in that time than for any period in the past 800 years, the study shows.

“Temperature is the driver here,” says the lead author. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if temperatures get warmer, snow and ice melt sooner.”

Not being a rocket scientist, I was a little hesitant to check this out, but I thought wow this sounds pretty serious so I’d better at least make an effort.  Since I happen to know of a long-term climate station in a rural area of the northern Idaho Rockies with a nearly complete record spanning almost a century, I decided to take the plunge and see just how much warmer it is now compared to the 99-yr average at the Priest River Experiment Station.  Here is what I found comparing the most recent five-year period against the full 99 years:

Period          Mean Temperature
Coolest - 1916   40.19 F
1912-2010        44.02 F
2006-2010        44.06 F
Warmest - 1934   47.37 F

Given that 2011 has started out well below normal across the northern Rockies it is likely that the 2007-2011 5-yr average will come in even lower than the 2006-2010 period.

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