Is Northwest Snow History? Scientific Errors in A Major Seattle Times Climate Story

by Cliff Mass at

I am getting tired of writing blogs on this issue.

Another Seattle Times front-page story pushing a false narrative on climate change came out on Sunday.  A story that is full of scientific errors.   An advocacy piece that poorly informs its readers.

This article, part of a ClimateLab series, claims that global warming is causing our regional precipitation to increasingly fall as rain, rather than snow.    And that this year is a sample of the future of our region.

This article is guilty of acts of omission.  Of citing questionable sources.  And of wrong and inaccurate statements.

Let me tell you about a few.

El Nino’s Impacts

This report talks about low snowpack this year but does not make clear that El Nino is the key cause, not climate change.     This winter has been influenced by a strong El Nino, which typically caused less snowfall over the Northwest and lots of rain over California after the new year.

Both are happening, as expected.

Snowpack Hype

The article states that since 1955 the region’s snowpack has declined by one-third.

This is very deceptive.   The mid-1950s was an unusually cold/snowy period.  Cold and snowy due to natural variability (such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation).

Let’s look at the change in Northwest snowpack over the past 40 years…. a period when global warming has been greatest (see below).  Below is the snow water content (called SWE)  over the region on April 1, right before the melt season.

Virtually no change over the past four decades.

Not what the Seattle Times is suggesting.